More than any other institution in America, nursing homes have come to symbolize the deadly destruction of the coronavirus crisis. More than 55,000 residents and employees of nursing homes and long-term care facilities have died, representing more than 40 percent of the total death toll in the United States. They are taking on coronavirus-stricken patients to bolster their bottom lines.
The New York Times recently reported on the nursing home industry kicking out old and disabled residents including veterans, and sending them to homeless shelters, assisted living facilities, and rundown motels according to 22 watchdogs in 16 states, as well as dozens of elder-care lawyers, social workers and former nursing home executives. The New York Times contacted more than 80 state-funded nursing-home ombudsmen in 46 states for a tally of involuntary discharges during the pandemic at facilities they monitor. Twenty six ombudsmen, from 18 states, provided figures to The Times: a total of more than 6,400 discharges, many to homeless shelters.
The corporate bean counters have figured out how they can profit from COVID-19. Nursing home employees even informed journalists that staff are being told to clear out less-profitable residents to make room for a new class of customers who would generate more revenue: patients with Covid-19. Covid-19 patients can bring in at least $600 more a day in Medicare dollars than people with relatively mild health issues, according to nursing home executives and state officials.
Most of the evictions, known as involuntary discharges, violate federal rules that require nursing homes to place residents in safe locations and to provide them with at least 30 days’ notice before forcing them to leave. Fifteen state-funded ombudsmen said in interviews that some homes appear to be taking advantage of that void to evict vulnerable residents.
Nursing homes have long had a financial incentive to evict Medicaid patients in favor of those who pay through private insurance or Medicare, which reimburses nursing homes at a much higher rate than Medicaid. More than 10,000 residents and their families complained to watchdogs about being discharged in 2018, the most recent year for which data are available.
Nursing homes are allowed to evict residents only if they aren’t able to pay for their care, are endangering others in the facility or have sufficiently recovered. Under federal law, before discharging patients, nursing homes are required to give formal notice to the resident and to the ombudsman’s office. They must also find a safe alternative location for the resident to go, whether that is an assisted living facility, an apartment or, in rare circumstances, a homeless shelter.