Kentucky nursing home representatives are seeking to protect their profits at the expense of residents by seeking a reduction in regulations established for patient safety and quality care. Betsy Johnson, the executive director of the Kentucky Association of Health Care Facilities, the heavily financed group lobbying for the industry, is campaigning against what she calls “overly strict enforcement of rules meant to ensure safety of residents.” She calls Kentucky a “broken regulatory environment that only exacerbates the toxic litigation environment in Kentucky.” The nursing home industry has lobbied for years for a state law to limit lawsuits.
Fortunately, patients have advocates too. While not nearly as well financed as the industry lobbyists, consumer advocates do what they can to protect nursing home residents from becoming victims. Brian Lee, the executive director of Families for Better Care, believes that lawmakers should consider the details of violations before accepting the industry’s claim that it is over-regulated.
An immediate jeopardy violation is one that causes harm, serious injury, or death, or is likely to do so. Punishment for these violations come in the form of large fines against the facility, totaling as much as $10,000 a day. Statistics show that Kentucky inspectors are more likely to cite immediate jeopardy violations than inspectors in other states. The inspector general’s office monitors nursing homes on behalf of the federal government, which provides most of the funding for nursing home care. In fiscal year 2015, Kentucky nursing homes received nearly $1 billion in Medicaid funds. The U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services uses a five-star quality rating system to evaluate how well facilities are meeting their residents’ clinical and physical needs. Facilities are given a rating of one to five stars, with five being the highest. Among the eight states in the CMS Atlanta region, Kentucky has the largest percentage of facilities that rank below average. Only twelve percent of Kentucky facilities have five-star ratings.
Kentucky nursing homes have been fined nearly $16 million in the past three years because of their tragically poor care. Some of the incidents reported include a scabies outbreak in a Nicholasville facility, a fistfight between a resident and an aide, and a fatal incident involving a resident falling out a wheelchair. Maryellen Mynear, the inspector general for the Cabinet of Health and Family Services, stated in a letter to the committee lobbying for regulation reduction, “the fact that an industry believes it is over-regulated does not make it so.” The debate continues as there are several Kentucky politicians that support a regulation reduction, arguing that it could result in a cost reduction that could be passed on to residents and their families if a facility was able to spend less money on meeting safety criteria. Supporters for higher regulation respond with the argument that if facilities would properly care for their residents, there would be no reason to argue the issue or pay resulting violation fines.
Some of Kentucky’s most vulnerable people live in nursing home facilities where they have been threatened, ridiculed, slapped, injured, or sexually abused. It is imperative that rules for safety and care are followed to the highest level. When it comes to the quality of life for our loved ones living in these facilities, there is no excuse for poor service and performance. If you wish to learn more about the regulation and violations of Kentucky nursing home facilities, contact Thomas Law Offices for more information or visit our nursing home neglect and abuse pages here.