U.S. Nursing Homes: More Profits, Less Nursing Care

Nursing home owners have claimed for years that they are barely getting by, and the lawsuits against them for negligent care are going to drive them out of business, leaving no place to put seniors. We reject this argument as a time-honored trick by tortfeasors to become the victims after causing harm to others. A New York Times article substantiated that the nursing home business is plenty profitable.

According to the Times, private takeover of nursing homes leads to poorer care, and increases the likelihood of nursing home abuse or neglect. A survey of complaints against more than 16,000 U.S. nursing homes found that care often deteriorates significantly after homes are acquired by large private investment firms.

The Times compared the number of complaints received against 1,200 nursing homes acquired by these for-profit firms against those of 14,000 other nursing homes.

The report revealed that, on average, residents of these homes are now much worse off in terms of depression, loss of mobility, and loss of ability to dress and bathe themselves than before the takeover, according to data compiled by the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Much of that shortfall in care is linked to drastic cuts in nursing and other staff in the months after an investment firm takes over the home.

“The first thing owners do is lay off nurses and other staff that are essential to keeping patients safe,” said Charlene Harrington, a professor at the University of California in San Francisco who studies nursing homes. In her opinion, she added, “chains have made a lot of money by cutting nurses, but it’s at the cost of human lives.”

Advocates for nursing home reforms say anyone who profits from a facility should be held accountable for its care.

“Private equity is buying up this industry and then hiding the assets,” said Toby S. Edelman, a nursing home expert with the Center for Medicare Advocacy, a nonprofit group that counsels people on Medicare. “And now residents are dying, and there is little the courts or regulators can do.”

There is something you can do. Go after those who cause the harm, plain and simple.