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Nursing Homes Receive $1.5 Billion from Medicare

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Center for Medicare Advocacy, a watchdog group, is reporting that the nursing home industry is getting an extra $1.5 billion toward reimbursement, from Medicare next year. According to an article in Naples Daily News, nursing home advocates say this amount is clearly inflated and the windfall to skilled nursing facilities comes with “no strings attached.”

There is absolutely no reason to believe or expect that this money will go toward improved quality of patient care or a better quality of life for nursing home residents. This is unfortunate considering there are estimated to be more than 1.5 million nursing home residents in the United States. In fact, a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report released earlier this year, said about one-fifth of all nursing homes were cited in 2007 for serious deficiencies, most of them to do with negligence or abuse. Poor quality of care continues to harm a number of nursing home residents, placing them in immediate risk of death or serious injury.

Some of the biggest nursing home negligence issues, according to the GAO report, include allowing pressure sores to develop; lack of adequate follow-up; failure to prevent falls; and lack of hygiene. These are serious problems that in many cases have led to grave injuries and even death.

Nursing homes have reportedly been overpaid by Center for Medicare since January 2006 after expanding the list of categories that were used in determining patients’ medical status for reimbursement purposes. This change allowed nursing homes to designate some residents as more medically complex, netting them an extra $780 million for next year.

The federal government, instead of caving in to industry lobbyists, should act now and quit handing out these large payouts to nursing homes. Although there are many nursing homes that provide quality care, we know that there are also a large number of nursing homes that keep their profit levels up by keeping their staff levels low and quality of care substandard. If we’re pumping money into this industry, we need to make them accountable for it.

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