Nursing Homes

Did you know that about two-thirds of America’s nursing homes are run as for-profit facilities? The majority of them are owned not by individuals, but by for-profit nursing home chains that own hundreds of properties serving thousands of patients.

These for-profit nursing homes have terrible safety records. When the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) released its ratings in February 2012, USAToday published a list of 564 nursing homes that received an overall quality rating of one star out of five for seven consecutive ratings periods from 2009-2011. More than 90% of these nursing homes were for-profit. In addition, two-thirds of the nursing homes with consistently poor quality ratings were in for-profit chains. The largest nursing home chain HCR ManorCare, had nearly 10% of its homes in the consistently poor quality, and none that had consistent 5-star ratings.

Why Care Is Poor in For-Profit Nursing Homes

The answer is simple: profit. For-profit nursing homes attempt to increase the number of patients they can service so they increase care, while trying to decrease labor costs.

One area that is consistently targeted by these for-profit chains is the number of nurses on staff. For-profit nursing homes have consistently fewer hours of nurses on staff than non-profit nursing homes. A recent study showed that homes owned by for-profit nursing home chains had 30% lower nurse staffing hours than non-profit or government-run nursing homes.

Financial Penalties Work

To make for-profit nursing homes provide an appropriate level of care, it must be more expensive to deliver poor care than it is to deliver quality care. To accomplish this, financial penalties—such as government fines and nursing home negligence lawsuits–play an important role.

In the states with the highest average fines per home, Washington and Tennessee, only about 3% remained on the list of low-quality homes. In other states with lower fines, such as West Virginia and Texas, more nursing homes continued to provide poor care over the period studied:  5-10%.

Unfortunately, government penalties are often inconsistent—they do not match the quality of nursing homes. For example, Arkansas has the second highest number of serious deficiencies, but is ranked 36th in the average penalties imposed.

To provide consistent financial penalties for poor-quality nursing homes, we must use lawsuits in addition to government penalties.

Nursing Homes Are Trying to Take Away Your Right to Sue

Led by the large for-profit nursing home chains, nursing homes are trying to take away your right to pursue compensation in a jury trial. Nursing home contracts are increasingly being written with binding arbitration agreements in them. These agreements mean you must go to an arbitration hearing rather than a court room to resolve your dispute.

Although arbitration may sound like a fair way to resolve disputes, it is anything but. Arbitrators are often selected by the nursing homes and depend on the nursing homes for continued business. As our founding fathers wrote in the Declaration of Independence, a judge in the pay of one party in the dispute cannot be trusted to be fair. Arbitration hearings are also secret and do not allow the same level of appeal as jury trials.

Don’t let for-profit nursing homes continue to deliver substandard care—protect your right to a jury trial for nursing home disputes by supporting legislation that makes these binding arbitration clauses illegal. Join the fight today!