Level of Long-Term Care in Nursing Homes Declining as Homes Focus on More Lucrative Short-Term Residents

Nursing homes traditionally cater to two types of residents: short-term residents entering the facility after being treated for a disease or illness at a hospital, and long-term residents requiring care to the end of their life.

The payment mechanism for long-term stays vs. short-term stays can be very different. Generally, if a person over the age of 65 is hospitalized and their physician determines the patient is healthy enough to leave the hospital care, but not healthy enough to return home, the doctor will order a short nursing home rehabilitation stay focused on returning the patient to their home as soon as possible. Medicare will pay for up to 100 days of this type of rehabilitation. Generally, after 100 days, if the patient can't return home, the family has to begin paying privately for the nursing home until they run out of money and Medicaid payments begin at a much discounted rate.

For-profit nursing homes want the 100 days of rehabilitation payments and don't desire the less attractive lower Medicaid payment rate.

A recent article by the New York Times indicates there is a current trend showing nursing homes are focusing on catering to short-term (100 day rehab) residents, at the expense of the safety and benefits of longer-term residents. The article cites a 2014 study conducted by the United States Department of Health and Human Services study. http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/15/business/as-nursing-homes-chase-lucrative-patients-quality-of-care-is-said-to-lag.html?_r=2

The article draws a picture that nursing homes are in a cutthroat race for short-term residents with Medicare available and forsaking the residents that have no money (Medicaid) available for their long-term care. The study indicates many nursing homes have begun refusing Medicaid patients in order to reserve all room for Medicare short-term stay residents.

As part of this process, nursing homes must expend funds by adding amenities and services to attract short-term residents, meaning that costs must be cut in other areas. Nursing homes are remodeling, repainting, paying for fresh-cut flowers, bigger televisions, wireless internet, and interior decorators to entice short-term stays. What these homes are apparently not doing, is spending more money on staff, supplies, and good care.

Experts call this the "chandelier effect" because the nursing home will promise bells and whistles and instead deliver sub-par care for high prices. By focusing on unnecessary luxuries, nursing homes are unable to provide the residents with what they really need - competent medical care. A resident enticed by the attractive amenities will soon find that they will be unable to enjoy any of the amenities if they don't receive proper care. http://oig.hhs.gov/oei/reports/oei-06-11-00370.pdf

If you or a loved one suffered an injury or wrongful death due to nursing home neglect or abuse, you are not powerless. You have legal options. Rich Hitz as Carlson & Burnett, LLP can counsel you and your family and help you fight for compensation. Contact Rich to set up a free consultation.

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