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Big Federal Penalties Aimed at Deterring Nursing Home Abuse

In a serious effort to reduce the ever increasing reports of nursing home abuse and neglect, the federal government has finally started to step in and take extreme measures. Most recently the federal government levied two immense penalties against two nursing home corporations based in Iowa. While it is too soon to determine if these penalties will actually deter nursing home abuse and neglect, it is likely to be successful for the same reason large jury awards have a deterrent effect. Our Illinois nursing home abuse and neglect attorneys are extremely experienced with obtaining the largest damage awards for our clients.

The recent sanctions were levied by the United States Department of Health and Human Services because the two corporations violated several nationally enforced regulations. The violation that resulted in the largest fine was the employment of workers who were barred from working in federally funded nursing homes. Even though there are not many federal regulations that are actually enforced, this regulation is consistently enforced.

The rationale behind this regulation is it’s important to maintain at least a minimum standard of care. Once an employee has broken a rule and been barred from working at a federally funded nursing home, via Medicaid or Medicare, they are no longer allowed to work in the field in any capacity. This regulation also requires that nursing homes and health care facilities have a certain percentage of certified nurses and elderly care providers.

Enforcement of a regulation, such as this one, where there is no actual abuse or neglect occurring denotes an important step of combating the increase in nursing home abuse. This step is that of prevention. To penalize nursing homes and corporations for violations that often times lead to nursing home abuse and neglect is to greatly reduce the likelihood of such abuse occurring. As a result, in the long run it will prevent instances of abuse and neglect, which will most importantly increase the quality of health care these elderly individuals are receiving.

The first Iowa nursing home corporation violated this regulation. The fine was in excess of 200 thousand dollars. This corporation runs eleven nursing homes and elderly care facilities in the state of Iowa. Many of these nursing homes were cited for violating this federal regulation. The massive total penalty levied against the corporation was the summation of many smaller fines. While these fines may start out as affordable, they become increasingly more expensive over time and they compound.

The second nursing home corporation that was fined was penalized by the inspector general of the United States Department of Health and Human Services for excluding patients that primarily used Medicaid and or Medicare. The nursing home disputed these fines; the fines were eventually litigated. After a long settlement agreement, the parties agreed upon a payment of 675 thousand dollars. The parties also entered into a Corporate Integrity Agreement, which requires the corporation’s nursing homes to offer extra staff training to determine what services can be billed by the nursing homes to Medicare and Medicaid.

It finally appears that the federal government is taking the rise in nursing home abuse and neglect reports very seriously. Even though extremely large jury awards have a strong deterrent effect, clearly they were not sufficient to curb this abuse. Hopefully, the combination of the two deterrent effects will be successful. Unfortunately, it will never be possible to end nursing home abuse and neglect. Thus, if you or your family members have suffered or are suffering from nursing home abuse and neglect, you should contact an attorney today.