While there are fewer nursing homes in the United States, there are more elderly people who are in need of the services of a nursing home. That is a growing trend. Each nursing home has a limited number of beds. In order to maximize their profits, nursing homes want to fill those beds with as many low-maintenance patients, who have the ability to pay timely, as they possibly can. For many nursing homes, this profit-driven motivation is creating a disturbing outcome – eviction of its more problematic patients – and eviction of those who lack the ability to pay as well or as timely as others.
The Associated Press has reported that nursing home evictions are up by an alarming 57 percent since 2000. In 2014, “involuntary discharges” was the number one grievance lodged by ombudsmen, individuals who work to resolve issues between residents, their families and nursing homes.
Federal regulations are designed to address these wrongful evictions from nursing homes. The problem is that many facilities ignore these regulations. By and large, that’s because the regulations are weak. The nursing homes don’t face any real punishment for telling a family their elderly loved one must go from the facility.
Nevertheless, the federal regulations apply to those facilities that receive Medicaid or Medicare benefits. In fact, if a facility receives government benefits, the regulations apply not only to the recipients who are in the facility, but also to recipients who are private-pay or insurance-pay patients.
Nursing homes defend the evictions by claiming that more problematic patients are a risk to staff, to other patients and to themselves. However, lawyers who represent families with loved ones who have been evicted report that far too many cases involve slow-pay patients, family members who complain a lot about patient care, or other issues the nursing home simply does not want to deal with. That’s especially the case where another potential resident is on a waiting list who will be much less demanding or is better able to pay.
The federal regulations that pertain to “involuntary discharge” by a nursing home limit removal of a resident/patient from the nursing home, except in the following instances:
• The resident’s needs cannot be adequately met by the facility;
• The resident’s health has improved and the resident is no longer in need of the facility’s services;
• The safety of other individuals in the facility is affected by the resident;
• The health of other individuals in the facility would be endangered if the resident were allowed to remain in the facility;
• The resident has failed to pay or has failed or refused to apply for Medicare or Medicaid; or
• The facility ceases to operate.
While there may be legitimate occasions when a nursing home must ask to have a patient removed from its facility, the Nursing Home Reform Act prevents improper threatening of a patient (or in some cases a family member) with eviction. Any notice of eviction must be in writing or it lacks any legal effect. The written notice must set forth the resident’s and the family’s rights in the event the nursing home provides the required written notification of “involuntary discharge.”
If a notice of involuntary discharge is received, the law provides a 10-day right of appeal. A compassionate nursing home should work with a family in order to permit the family and the resident to determine what is best for the resident, look for other nursing home placement, and to meet and speak with the patient’s doctor about what might be best for that patient.
If you need more information relating to the above, or relating to nursing home litigation generally, contact Ben Locklar at 800-898-2034 or by email at Ben.Locklar@beasleyallen.com. Ben handles nursing home litigation for the firm and he will be glad to talk with you.
Resources: www.seniorcitizensguide.com and www.modernhealthcare.com
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