Families, courts and feds fight nursing home abuse

If you think, judging from the news media, stories from friends and family or your personal experience, that American nursing homes are in crisis, you’re in good company.

Increasingly, the most vulnerable Americans have had to rely on families to help monitor facility conditions, pressure legislators and regulators, and hold facility owners accountable through the civil courts.

Lawsuits and investigations shut down questionable company

A New Jersey nursing home company was recently hit with more than a dozen lawsuits brought by families alleging their loved ones suffered neglect.

The company had ballooned in just a few years to more than 100 nursing homes in 11 states and was entrusted with more than 7,000 vulnerable residents. The operation was run out of a tiny office above a corner pizzeria in Wood Ridge, New Jersey.

Medicare and Medicaid account for the large majority of funds in America’s nursing home system, and the New Jersey company was reportedly used to syphon funds from the hundreds of millions of dollars its homes received from government-operated healthcare systems.

The operation has since collapsed in a cloud of negligence allegations, unpaid bills, and civil lawsuits filed by families and state governments.

GAO criticizes Medicare for not calling the police

This summer, the General Accounting Office criticized the federal government’s failure to alert state law enforcement when nursing home abuse is reported to Medicare.

The GAO investigators found that reports of abuse doubled in the five years before 2018. Such reports included sexual abuse 18% of the time, and physical and mental abuse each appeared about 45% of the time.

The GAO recommends Medicare to require states to immediately refer complaints to state law enforcement, confirm that they’re doing so, and guide states on what information ought to be reported.