The most recent attempt to overhaul the nation’s health care system would fundamentally alter Medicaid and jeopardize home and community-based services, according to www.DisabilityScoop.com. A chart outlining the proposed bill is available here.

After a prior Republican plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act failed, this new effort in the U.S. Senate again seeks to upend the Obama-era law.

The proposal introduced last week by Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., Bill Cassidy, R-La., Dean Heller, R-Nev., and Ron Johnson, R-Wis. runs into a deadline of September 30. After that date, a simple majority will not suffice to pass the measure – rather, 60 votes would be needed to do so.

Thus, Republicans have until Sept. 30 to repeal Obamacare with only 51 votes in the Senate under the current budget resolution.

Continue Reading New Healthcare Bill Would Impact Medicaid Services

The latest tort reform measure, H.R. 1215, the Protecting Access to Care Act of 2017, would place caps on medical malpractice damages, limit attorney fees, and modify statutes of limitations. Among other changes to current law, non-economic damages in medical malpractice lawsuits would be limited to $250,000 – and juries would not be informed of this cap on damages. H.R. 1215 would apply to health care lawsuits where coverage for the care was provided or subsidized by the federal government, including through subsidies or tax benefits.

H.R. 1215 would preempt state laws governing health care litigation in several areas, including statutes of limitation, joint and several liability, product liability, and attorney contingency fees.

Proponents of the bill claim that the bill would lower medical liability insurance premiums, and by extension, reduce the incidence of so-called “defensive” medical treatments and lower costs associated with federal health care programs such as Medicaid.

Continue Reading Will Tort Reform Affect Nursing Home Care?

The U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) recently inspected the 139 nursing homes that it insures. HUD gave a Philadelphia nursing home its lowest possible rating. On a scale of 100, Bala Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Wynnefield Heights scored a 2.

Federal inspectors found 58 “safety and health” violations at Bala Nursing, including 37 that put residents in jeopardy. The violations including missing or broken handrails, blocked or locked fire exits, exposed wiring and missing protective plates, m broken “call-for-aid” devices, and rodent infestation.

Continue Reading Lowest Rating for Philadelphia’s Bala Nursing Home After Inspection

Just this week the New Jersey Attorney General, Christopher Porrino, and the Division of Consumer Affairs announced an exciting new program to protect individuals from the abuses of home healthcare providers. It is called the Safe Care Cam program and the purpose of the program is to provide micro-surveillance cameras for free 30 day loans to families that suspect an in-home care giver is abusing or neglecting their loved one.

Continue Reading NJ Attorney General Introduces New Program to Protect Residents from Abuse

In our practice, we represent individuals, who are often diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and dementia, and their families. It is not uncommon for individuals with Alzheimer’s and dementia suffer from poor safety awareness and poor decision making. This can lead to devastating results and injuries if a nursing home does not properly care for the resident’s individual needs and safety. Due to the debilitating nature of Alzheimer’s and dementia, researchers have been studying the disease and there appears to be some good news on the horizon.

A November 21, 2016, article by Liz Szabo posted on CNN.com discussed how a recently published study showed that dementia rates have fallen nearly 24% from 2000 to 2012. The significant rate of decline is attributed to Americans’ rising educational levels and better heart health.

The study, which was published in JAMA Internal Medicine, began in 1992 and focused on people over 50 years old. The researchers collected data from the participants every two years. The data included interviews, physical tests, body measurements, blood samples, and saliva samples.

Researchers are not certain why dementia rates are declining, but the evidence is mounting that higher education and better heart health are related to the decline.

This is promising news because currently, according to Alzheimer’s Association of America, as many as 5.1 million Americans suffer from Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. It is also estimated that a half million Americans under 65 have some form of dementia.

It was recently reported by ABC27 News that the Pennsylvania Attorney General Office has brought a lawsuit against Grane Healthcare and their facilities individually for understaffing and not providing basic services to its residents.

More troubling is the fact that the state alleges that “Grane’s business practices are deceptive and misleading because it advertises that it strives for a very high staff-to-patient ratio.”

After doing nursing home neglect and abuse claims day in and day out, it is encouraging to see state agencies stepping up and holding these facilities to task as well.

Throughout the country, trusting families are signing nursing home, rehab, and assisted living admission paperwork for someone they care deeply about. These documents are technical, long, and complicated. Hidden in many of these agreements is language that significantly curtails a family’s ability to hold a facility accountable if something terrible happens – including rape, assault, neglect, and death. This language is called “pre-dispute” or “forced” arbitration language.

Pre-dispute forced arbitration is where a person agrees to give up their right to sue in court if an injury or death happens. To be clear, your loved one’s admission to the facility cannot be denied if you don’t agree to arbitration and you get absolutely, 100%, nothing in exchange for agreeing to pre-dispute arbitration.

Continue Reading Forced Pre-Dispute Arbitration Gets Federal Attention

Often, many of the problems that occur in nursing homes are a direct result of terribly insufficient staffing. This knowledge is born out in studies that show a direct correlation between staffing ratios and quality of care.

Despite all of this clear evidence, many facilities only meet the bare minimum hours required under state regulation. Some aides have told me the ratio on their day shift at a nursing home was as high as 1 aide to 14 residents. For those unaware, aides are the people who feed, bathe, and transfer residents, and they are also responsible turning and repositioning any residents who are at risk for developing bed sores. Having only 1 person in charge of caring for 14 patients at the same time is a catastrophe waiting to happen.

Continue Reading New Jersey Looks to Improve Staffing Ratios

As I’ve written before, the real drivers of healthcare costs are not lawsuits, which studies by Johns Hopkins Medicine found are less than 1% of healthcare costs. The big costs are a result of fraud.

Kindred Healthcare, a large chain of nursing homes, will pay $125 million to settle allegations that it billed Medicare for therapy that was either unnecessary or not provided.

The case was brought forward by two whistleblowers – employees of Kindred who knew that what their company was doing was not right.  You can read a full account of the case as reported by the Boston Globe.

Our practice group has often written about how corporations unfairly use predispute arbitration agreements to sidestep the civil-justice system and gain disproportionate advantage when addressing their negligent conduct in arbitration.

Often times, corporations slip arbitration clauses into the admission papers and process—at a time when the family is justifiably thinking about the loved one’s health, wellbeing, and quality of life. They are not thinking about their preferred method for resolving a hypothetical legal dispute that may or may not occur in the future.

Now, numerous lawmakers have echoed our sentiment by stating that corporations that use predispute arbitration clauses at nursing homes make it more difficult for negligence and abuse victims to seek redress. On September 23, 2015, U.S. Senator Al Franken led a 34-Senator coalition in calling on the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to outlaw predispute arbitration clauses in contracts with long-term care facilities like nursing homes. (Read the letter here)

The letter explains that the “decision to admit yourself or a loved one to a long-term care facility can be difficult. Unfortunately, families often have limited choices due to cost and location constraints. Yet, long-term care facilities sometimes force and often encourage potential residents and their families to waive their legal rights before any harm has occurred and to agree to a dispute resolution forum that may be biased in favor of the facility.”

And, because families are rightly focused on their loved one’s wellbeing during the admission process, the letter explains that “only an arbitration agreement that is entered into after an incident has occurred and after a resident has considered all their legal rights can ensure that resident and their families are not deprived of their rights.”

A shareholder in our Nursing Home Litigation Group explains: “When admitting a resident, if you see these documents slipped into the admission paperwork, don’t sign them! You don’t have to, and you’re only hurting yourself if you do. If you’ve already signed one, tell the administrator you want to cancel it.”

No family wants to believe that a nursing home or an assisted living facility would hurt their loved one, but it happens all too often. If you or someone you know has been involved in a nursing-home negligence or abuse incident, consult with an attorney immediately to discuss your rights.