Newspapers are printing an advance overview of a GAO (Government Accountability Office) report, due out next week. The GAO investigated nursing homes receiving Medicaid/Medicare payments, to see if incidences of nursing home abuse had lessened since a 1998 GAO report, targeting such disgraces. The new report is not encouraging. Even homes in which instances of shocking abuse occur, receive minimal penalties from the government. Some homes were found to have repeatedly abused residents over a multi-year period, and yet remain eligible for Medicare and Medicaid payments.
The Department of Health & Human Services is the federal agency responsible for monitoring nursing homes receiving federal funds. Apparently, it has failed massively in its responsibility to Americans needing nursing homes. The GAO report shows that little has changed since 1998, since what was supposed to be a major campaign to end nursing home neglect and abuse. Attorney blogs reporting on nursing home neglect and abuse, such as the Illinois Nursing Home Abuse blog, have been quick to report the study. Trial lawyers will do their part to insure that aubse does not proceed without consequences, but only the government can really minimize the scourge.
The GAO concludes that fines imposed by Health & Human Services, are so small, that offending nursing homes regard them as an acceptable cost of doing business. Upon learning of the upcoming report, some Congressmen have vowed new legislation requiring tougher sanctions.