California Watch Expose: Nursing Homes Take Advantage of 2004 Law To Boost Their Profit Margin, Not Their Staffing or Wages
Remember a law California passed in 2004, designed to provide California nursing homes with additional MediCal money? This law -- The Nursing Home Quality Care Act -- was passed to address nursing homes’ complaint that the homes are understaffed because they simply cannot afford to hire more staff or to pay more wages. Under this law, the state’s 1,100 nursing homes received an additional $880 million in funding during 2004-2008, to hire more staff and pay better wages. Reporter Christina Jewett (pictured at the right) of California Watch has done a study, Nursing Homes Received Millions While Cutting Staff, Wages to see whether the additional funding to nursing homes has resulted in better staffing and salary levels. Jewett reports that 232 of 645 nursing homes receiving the extra funding either cut staffing, reduced wages, or violated state law minimum staffing level laws. These same nursing homes had fatter profit margins than other California nursing homes.
Jewett was also able to show a further correlation – the nursing homes receiving the extra funds that made the steepest staffing cuts also had about 30% more “deficiencies” (violations of State Title 22 licensing regulations) than the average California nursing home.
One other interesting fact in the article, “Nursing homes are allowed to bill the state for legal fees spent fighting abuse and neglect citations and lawsuits. They can bill for legal fees spent fighting audit findings they disagree with.” In other words, your tax dollars are going to help nursing homes hire lawyers to defeat elder abuse lawsuits and to challenge state officials who find the nursing home to be breaking the law.
The California Watch articles are mandatory reading for anyone with a family member in a California nursing home or anyone with a lawsuit against a California nursing home. The California Watch website contains data for each of the 232 nursing homes on the list (organized by county and by facility name). Check to see if your nursing home is on the list -- if it is, it should be a red flag to you that the nursing home is compromising staffing or wages for the sake of corporate profits. If you are prosecuting a lawsuit against a nursing home who has fattened its profit margin while cutting its staff, the data will help you build your case that the nursing home was reckless, willful or malicious under the California Elder Abuse and Dependent Adult Civil Protection Act.