The Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported in 1998 that nursing homes repeatedly harm residents without facing sanctions. Unfortunately, a new report due out next week reaches the same conclusion. The Bush administration rarely uses its authority to deny payment to homes with a history of compliance problems and typically imposes fines far less than the maximum of $10,000 a day, the report said. Further, the Department of Health and Human Services “fails to hold homes with a long history of harming residents accountable for the poor care provided,” the investigators said.
Medicaid and Medicare payments accounted for 60 percent of the $122 billion spent on nursing home care in 2005, the most recent year for which figures are available. About 1.5 million people live in the nation’s 16,400 nursing homes on any given day. More than 3 million people receive nursing-home care at some point in the year. Medicaid and Medicare pay for more than two-thirds of patients.
Critics of America’s civil justice system argue for more personal responsibility. I agree! Isn’t it time to hold nursing homes accountable for providing substandard care? Why shouldn’t substantial fines and closures be the result of continued bad care by the same long term care facilities? As taxpayers, why do we continue to pay for bad care?