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Feds cite for-profit nursing homes for poor care and overcharges, not public nursing homes

March 20, 2013
Jane Engstrom , Westfield Republican / Mayville Sentinel News

"Medicare paid $5.1 billion for poor skilled nursing care." That's how newspaper headlines read all over the country when the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services issued their report in February.

The article raised many questions, so I called the office of the inspector general at HHS and asked, "Does the poor care and overbilling documentation include public nursing homes?" The answer was, "There are so few public skilled nursing facilities that our study did not include public nursing homes."

So the data exposing $5.1 billion worth of overcharging and poor care indicts for-profit, privately owned nursing homes. Not-for-profits are documented as engaging in far lower abuse.

The examples on the HHS website paint a heartbreaking picture of what the profit motive does to care of our most vulnerable, the elderly and the disabled.

There are currently no federal regulations regarding reimbursement based on quality of care according to the HHS study. With no consequences, overcharging is common. For-profits do not have to disclose the profits they make from "care" of seniors. Medicare paid out $32 billion to skilled nursing facilities in 2012 alone.

A Wall Street Journal article on Feb. 19, 2013, "Should States Opt Out of the Health Law's Medicaid Expansion?" has a graph at the bottom showing New York State will gain funding for Medicaid from 2014-20 under the Affordable Care Act. Medicaid funding will increase, not decrease.

Senior care is for sale. "Senior Care Investor," a newsletter featuring "deals and profits" to be made from operating skilled nursing facilities, shows sales of public skilled nursing facilities are booming, capital is readily available, profits are guaranteed - get in on the deals. Most homes listed are selling currently at $100,000 per bed on up. Those who buy in will see profits continue to increase in New York.

We are lucky to have a publically owned skilled nursing facility - the Chautauqua County Nursing Home. The care is excellent and Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements remain in our community. It is not siphoned off by unregulated profiteers who prey on vulnerable patients, on taxpayers and public employees.

Call your county legislator now and tell them to end the raid on our public assets.

Jane Engstrom




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