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NHC pushing to protect profits and avoid accountability

Published on April 20th, 2009

The Tennessean reported on Murfreesboro-based National Healthcare Corp’s CEO defending the ridiculous legislation to impose limitations on the amount of damages a victim of neglect, abuse, or negligence can be compensated for their injuries and pain and suffering.

Critics have labeled the bill the "Kill Old People Cheap Act."

"If we could lower our liability expense, we could put more into staffing," NHC President Steve Flatt said.  However, in all the states with caps on damages, the staffing remained the same!  These nursing homes have insurance and staffing is not affected by potential liability.  If they staffed properly to begin with then there would be less victims of neglect and negligence.  Flatt said his company saw a 20 percent loss in profits, going from $45 million in 2007 to $36 million in 2008. Opponents of the bill contend the nursing home industry spent between $700,000 to $850,000 to lobby for last year’s version of the legislation.

 Daniel Clayton, a Nashville attorney and president of the Tennessee Association for Justice, says while the legislation falls short.   "There’s not one word in their legislation that requires the nursing homes to improve the quality of care," he said. "We’re (ranked) 47th in the country in quality of care of nursing homes by the federal government." "Quality of care comes first," said Clayton. "The legislation that they are proposing is to make good care optional. Good care should not be optional. It should be mandatory.

Opponents see the legislation as a way to enhance profits by the industry.

"This bill is all about the nursing-home industry trying to avoid full responsibility when it neglects or abuses a vulnerable resident. Caps don’t improve care. If care improves, lawsuits go down."

NAACP Tennessee President Gloria Sweet-Love says the legislation comes at a time when state and federal reports have uncovered severe staffing and quality of care deficiencies. The CMS report uncovered that 49 percent of Tennessee Nursing Homes scored the poorest possible rating for staffing levels.

A report from the Government Accountability Office uncovered that Tennessee was one of nine states nationwide where health inspectors missed more that 25 percent of serious health and safety violations.  And a report recently released by AARP reconfirmed the poor state of Tennessee Nursing homes and found that tort restrictions have little impact on improving the quality of care in nursing homes.

The legislation would place arbitrary caps on non-economic and punitive damages in addition to making every negligent act that occurs in a nursing home protected under the Medical Malpractice Act.   "The nursing home industry’s effort to conceal its true intentions is despicable and should be rejected by anyone who has ever had a loved one in a nursing home," Sweet-Love said.

"We need laws to protect our nursing home residents, not ones designed to protect the profits of greedy nursing home operators."

"If the nursing home industry would spend its money on more nursing staff, rather than on high-priced insiders, the quality of care in nursing homes would improve," Sweet-Love, the NAACP official, states in the news release. "The industry chooses to spend their resources on backroom conversations aimed at passing a law that immunizes the industry from negligent and abusive acts against helpless residents."

 

Joe Pioletti
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