Our country is facing a crisis in nursing home care. Reports of nursing home negligence, neglect and abuse are surfacing at an increasing rate. While plaintiffs' nursing home lawyers have been critical of nursing homes, they are not alone. Federal government regulators in a recent study found that only 1.4% of nursing homes in the country meet the minimum government standards of care (1) having no violations on the last three annual surveys, and (2) having no substantiated complaints during the same time span.
The government began regulating nursing home care in 1965 when Congress set minimum standards for nursing homes wishing to receive federal Medicare and Medicaid funding. In 1987, Congress passed the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (also called the "Nursing Home Act") which created a Bill of Rights for nursing-home residents and further tightened the standards for homes seeking Medicare or Medicaid funds. These long-term care regulations help us bring lawsuit for negligent care because they establish at least a minimum legal standard for what constitutes acceptable care.
Taking up where the federal government left off, states have continued to promulgate legislation to strengthen the regulation of nursing homes. But the states are hamstrung by the lack of resources to properly investigate nursing home negligence or abuse before it happens.
Many states’ legislatures also do not draft the stringent laws that we need, often at the request of the powerful nursing home lobbyists who have strongly influenced Democrats and Republicans alike. American Health Care Association, which represents nursing home and assisted living facilities around the country, spent about $1.7 million lobbying government officials to relax nursing home regulations last year and to make it more difficult for victims to get justice, seeking immunity from civil lawsuits, caps on damages, and pushing for arbitration in nursing home cases. (In 2013, hosptials and nursing homes spend over $90 million lobbying legislatures.)
The arbitration problem is a real one as more and more are unwittingly giving up their rights to bring claims against nursing homes that abuse or neglect them because they signed an agreement, usually in the small print of the larger contract for nursing home care, to waive the right to bring a civil lawsuit. Many states have recognized that it is not a meaningful waiver of rights to allow nursing home patients to sign away access to judicial remedies but many states are allowing the enforcement of these arbitration agreements.
Even when the state does get involved in nursing home care, it often seems to be a whole lot about nothing. Nursing homes get cited, recited, and maybe they are fined but they almost invariably keep their license and continue to operate. After a nursing home police raid in Ohio in 2008, one police officer called the conditions “worse than any crack house” he had ever seen. Well, at least that is the end of that nursing home. Right? No. The police raided that same nursing home a month later, still in business, and still resembling a crack house.
Nursing homes in Maryland say through their political lobbyists that Maryland nursing home lawyers are not the best advocates to improve nursing home care in this country. They are wrong by definition: the only people standing up for nursing home patients are trial lawyers handling nursing home cases. When someone besides the victims and their families is willing to stand-up to the nursing home lawyers, then we can have a debate about who is the best advocate. Until then, trial lawyers are the best advocates for nursing home victims – by default.
Our law firm is handling serious injury and death nursing home negligence, neglect and abuse cases around the country. Click here to contact a nursing home lawyer to discuss your nursing home abuse case or call us at 800-553-8082.More Information