The patient was not yet 70. He’d had a stroke and was recovering at a Massachusetts for-profit nursing home. A week after he arrived, staffers dropped him while transferring him from a bed to a chair. Staffers called 911, but canceled the call when he seemed to stabilize. That night, though, he became unresponsive and he was rushed to a hospital. The fall had caused a brain bleed, and he died several days later.
His son hired a lawyer who thereafter discovered a pre-dispute arbitration agreement, as are forced in front of patients and loved ones upon admission, stripping them of the right to a civil trial if something goes wrong. Thankfully, the court found a provision in the agreement rendered it unenforceable.
But we are bound to see more cases like this, as a growing number of facilities are purchased by for-profit corporations, which then have almost complete control over our most fragile and vulnerable. These huge corporate entities amass major profits, and the business models are more geared toward making money than helping those who are gravely sick, physically disabled and cognitively impaired.
A recent report by The Huffington Post, 70 percent of the market is owned by for-profit entities, often private equity groups. A recent study found that in 60 percent of homes newly-purchased by for-profit corporations, mangers slashed staffing of nurses to the point there was only one registered nurse to provide care for every 20 patients.
On average, according to a study published in The American Journal of Public Health, for-profit nursing homes staff an average of 32 percent fewer nurses than not-for-profit operations. They also have nearly 50 percent higher deficiencies than non-profit centers. These centers bring home profit margins of between 20 and 30 percent. That’s compared to about 10 percent profit margins for non-profit facilities. In fact, nearly 80 percent of the $105 billion in profits went to the for-profit centers in 2010. That was an almost 10 percent spike over the course of eight years.
Medicaid patients in particular report facilities push them to have treatments or take medications they may not necessarily need. Research conducted by federal health care inspectors in 2012 discovered nursing homes had overbilled $1.5 billion for treatments patients either didn’t need or didn’t receive.
In essence, they exist not to care for the elderly and disabled, but to make money.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, under the Obama Administration’s direction, is considering cutting off nursing homes from federal funding if they use arbitration clauses in their contracts. Doing so would essentially give back basic rights to our most vulnerable population. By affording people the opportunity to hold nursing homes accountable for neglect and abuse, it grants greater incentive to make these facilities safer for elderly residents.
The fact is, arbitration clauses exist for the sole purpose of reducing liability of nursing homes. Although the process is supposed to be unbiased, it tends to result in less favorable results for plaintiffs, and the proceedings are completely confidential. That means nursing homes that repeatedly violate patient rights don’t have to face public scrutiny for their actions. Keeping these kinds of violations a secret is a disservice not only to the person in the immediate case, but also to all other patients. Nursing homes are essentially “opting out” of the civil justice system, and that perpetuates lower levels of care resulting in serious nursing home injuries and deaths.
Call Freeman Injury Law — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights. Now serving Orlando, West Palm Beach, Port St. Lucie and Fort Lauderdale.
Corporate American’s Latest Target: Nursing Homes, Oct. 15, 2015, By Paul Bland, Public Justice Executive Director, Huffington Post
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