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Helping to Ensure Nursing Home Patient Protections

September 27th, 2011

Earlier this year, California Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard introduced legislation known as H.R. 2552: “Nursing Home Patient Protection & Standards Act.”  (The “H.R.” stands for House of Representatives, signifying that the bill started in that body of Congress.)

H.R. 2522 was introduced to ensure consistent standards in nursing homes across the nation. It provides training and whistleblower protections for the surveyors who oversee the quality of care provided by nursing home facilities.

Congresswoman Roybal-Allard, who has served in Congress since 1992, is one of the most powerful members of the House of Representatives. She is a member of the distinguished House Appropriations Committee, which controls the purse strings of the federal government. She also serves on two influential subcommittees — the Subcommittee on Homeland Security and the Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education.According to the Congresswoman:

“According to a November 2009 GAO Report, nursing home inspectors known as surveyors are being improperly pressured to ‘under-report’ the problems with care of nursing home residents. These problems persist and my bill would prevent these surveyors from facing inappropriate pressure that can compromise the entire nursing home inspection process,” said Rep. Roybal-Allard. “Congress must act.”

“My bill targets inspection tampering by extending federal whistleblower protections to surveyors of nursing home facilities. It is critically important to have real accountability in the nursing home industry. This legislation doesn’t add one penny to federal spending while providing important protections to seniors.”  [Emphasis added by blogger]

In the United States there are more than 15,000 skilled nursing facilities that treat nearly 1.5 million people who are dealing with and recovering from serious health issues.  H.R. 2522 will improve training for surveyors, improve staffing for survey teams, and establish an advisory committee comprised of nursing home stakeholders to work together to ensure that the quality of care improves.

This bill is in the early stages of the process. Introduced bills and resolutions first go to committees that deliberate, investigate, and revise them before they go to general debate. The majority of bills and resolutions never make it out of committee, but we believe this one deserves our support. It will add nothing to federal spending, but will help to make sure that nursing homes provide the kind of care each of our senior citizens deserves. As the watchdog website ForceChange.com says:

The process of checking into a nursing care facility does not include relinquishing one’s rights to dignity and proper care. In fact, these rights are included in many existing federal and state statutes.  Some of these rights include treatment with respect, consideration and personal dignity which is adequate and appropriate, given the resident’s condition, and freedom from mental and physical abuse.  However, existing statutes do not go far enough and do not include sufficient punitive measures for caregivers, administrators, and facility owners to assure that proper conditions exist.  Sadly, the elderly and infirm in American society are viewed as a nuisance.  This lack of respect, coupled with the greed in the nursing home industry, leads to cutting corners, inappropriate staffing and resident neglect.

The Nursing Home lawyers of HensonFuerst support this bill’s efforts to strengthen accountability of nursing homes across the nation.  According to one of our experienced attorneys, Carma Henson:

In today’s economic climate of tight budgets, this is one law that won’t cost taxpayers anything, and yet will give heightened protections to state nursing home surveyors who a charged with investigating problems in facilities.  We urge supporters to contact their representatives to support this bill.

How to Contact Your Representative

To find the names and contact information for members of the House of Representatives by state, click here:  Directory of U.S. Representatives

Sample Letter to Congress

ForceChange.com is circulating an Internet petition to urge Congress to pass H.R. 2522. You can sign that petition here: Stop the Abuse and Neglect of Nursing Home Residents. You can also write your own letter, or select bits and pieces from this sample letter (from the ForceChange.com website):

Dear Members of Congress,

Elderly and ill Americans should be cared for and revered;  sadly, those that reside in U.S. nursing homes are often abused and neglected.  These forgotten members of our society deserve better and must be protected by legislative intervention.

We can not tolerate insufficient care and humiliating treatment at the expense of nursing home profits.  Cutting corners by limiting needed medical care,  reducing  staffing levels and providing insufficient nutrition is unconscionable and unacceptable.  Those that perpetrate this type of treatment, particularly for individuals who are incapable of advocating for themselves, must be held accountable and appropriate punitive measures must be taken.  With the aging of the Baby Boomer generation, our country will face increased residency in nursing care facilities and we will all be at risk for abusive, inadequate and neglectful care in our so-called Golden Years.

Please pass The Nursing Home Patient Protection and Standards Act of 2011 and assure that proper care is the standard in all U.S. nursing care facilities.

Sincerely,

[Your Name Goes Here]

We’ll keep you informed of how this bill fares as it moves through the process.

RESOURCES

To read the text of H.R. 2522, click here:  Nursing Home Patient Protection and Standards Act of 2011