The Bush Administration took one more swing at the public in a secret move designed to protect the owners of nursing homes that commit wrongs and hurt innocent residents of the facilities. The Administration shut off a needed source of information last fall about abuse and neglect in long-term care facilities that people suing nursing homes consider crucial to their cases. The change, which affects the $144 billion nursing-home industry, was enacted with neither public notice of any sort nor any public attention. It was done in secret and with absolutely no justification. The rule designates state inspectors and Medicare and Medicaid contractors as federal employees, a group usually shielded from providing evidence in private litigation.
The restrictions affect about 16,000 nursing facilities and 3 million residents in the United States. The practical effect is to force litigants to go to greater lengths, including obtaining court orders, to get inspection reports or depositions that are needed in litigation and which have been available up to now. Eric M. Carlson, a lawyer with the National Senior Citizens Law Center in Los Angeles, made this observation:
This change hurts nursing-home residents and their families by allowing bad practices to be kept in secret by nursing homes and inspectors. Government inspectors have the right to go into nursing homes and investigate, and they learn things that residents and families otherwise could never find out.
The new rule, which was issued in September, prohibits state health departments and contractors from participating in private lawsuits involving facilities that are in the federal assistance program without approval by the head of the Department of Health and Human Services. The Bush Administration will go down in history as being the most anti-consumer of all time. This is just another example of why!
Source: Associated Press
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