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The Status of Nursing Home Abuse on Medicaid’s 50th Anniversary

Alabama nursing home attorneyMedicaid and Medicare turned 50 in July. Together, these two programs have helped millions of poor and elderly residents receive the medical care they deserve to maintain their health. While Medicare pays for most medical services for seniors, including some rehabilitation services, Medicaid is the primary payer for nursing home care. Together, Medicaid and Medicare provide the bulk of funding for more than 15,000 nursing homes throughout the United States.

On the anniversary of the creation of these two important social safety net programs, NPR reports the Department of Health and Human Services has proposed a major overhaul to requirements that nursing home facilities must meet in order to qualify for funding from Medicaid and Medicare. The overhaul is designed to try to stop the continuing problem of elder abuse, which despite efforts to eradicate it, still leaves many seniors throughout the United States vulnerable to serious harm.

Nursing Home Neglect and Abuse Prevention Proposals

More than 1.3 million people in the United States currently live in nursing homes. Unfortunately, as many as 10 percent of people in nursing homes responding to a 2010 study said they had experienced some types of nursing home abuse or neglect within the past year.

Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) surveys found more than 330,000 deficiencies in nursing home conditions and care over the past six years. A deficiency is defined as any failure to fulfill a federal requirement. Deficiencies are not just minor oversights or lapses in fulfilling the requirements set by finicky regulators. A 2008 report from the Government Accountability Office found 15 percent of surveys contained reports actual harm to patients that was not reported and another 25 percent of deficiencies involved potential harm to patients.

Despite problems faced by nursing home residents, the federal government has not changed the rules regarding nursing home eligibility for Medicaid and Medicare payments in more than 30 years. That could change soon. Recently, officials proposed  hundreds of pages of proposed changes to such regulations. The proposed changes cover a diverse array of issues, including limits on the use of antipsychotic drugs to stronger staffing requirements and detailed regulations about meal times. There is also a provision addressing electronic health records, and proposed requirements for including families when helping patients develop a health care plan.

If enacted, such proposed changes would achieve several goals, including promoting more individualized care for nursing home residents and helping to ensure nursing facilities feel more like a home for the people who live there.

While new requirements could be a positive first step towards improving conditions, some worry that such regulations don't go far enough. For example, consumer advocates are concerned a federal nurse-to-resident ratio requirement is not included in the new rules. But even if the regulations do not go far enough, at least something is finally being considered to make sure seniors receive the care they deserve in nursing homes 50 years after the creation of Medicaid and Medicare.

Victims of Birmingham, AL nursing home abuse should consult with a personal injury lawyer at Shuttlesworth Law Firm LLC. Call 866-583-1885 today. Serving Birmingham, suburbs of Homewood, Mountain Brook and Vestavia Hills and surrounding locations. 

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