Nursing Homes Subject To Minimal Penalties


According to a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report the New York Times reported that nursing homes with repeated safety compliance problems usually face only minimal penalties from the federal government.

Congress established “stringent” standards for nursing homes in 1987, but a 1998 GAO report found that nursing homes that repeatedly harmed residents were not being sufficiently penalized.

According to the new GAO report, which is scheduled for release next week, nursing homes with a long history of harming residents still are not held accountable for the poor care they provide and some of the homes which repeatedly harmed residents over a six year period remain in the Medicare and Medicaid programs.

The report, which focuses on nursing homes with a history of compliance problems, used a California nursing home as an example. In that home a patient choked to death in part because a machine needed to save his life was broken. The facility, which was cited for more than 170 serious deficiencies, was still open in late 2006.

The GAO report went on to state that the Bush administration rarely denies federal payments to nursing homes with compliance problems and typically imposes fines that are much smaller than the maximum fine of $10,000 per day.

The report also states that immediate sanctions which the federal government is supposed to take against nursing homes that cause “actual harm” to residents are often not taken because the Bush Administration provides them with a grace period.

The New York Times reports that members of Congress “are likely to use the report as a map for legislation requiring stiffer penalties for the most serious violations..

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