The Clarion-Ledger had an article discussing how corporate lobbyists and campaign contributions prevent necessary reforms to nursing homes. Because of the influence of insurance companies and greedy corporate owners of for profit nursing home chains, Mississippi nursing homes still have the right to operate with little or no liability insurance.
The House passed House Bill 536 with bipartisan Republican support in that chamber. But the bill was killed in the Senate Insurance Committee, dying in Senate Insurance Committee Chairman Buck Clarke’s pocket.
House Bill 536 would have required non-government nursing homes to carry the same $500,000 in liability coverage that government nursing homes carry. Nursing homes owned by county hospitals or other entities covered by the State Tort Claims Board are covered for legal claims up to the statutory cap of $500,000 if a jury finds that a patient has been abused, neglected or otherwise sufficiently harmed in a covered facility. Yet a number of private nursing homes in Mississippi do not carry liability insurance sufficient to cover claims up to the statutory $500,000 cap.
Some carry so-called "eroding" policies that pay for the nursing home’s defense lawyers out of the available liability insurance before a victim is compensated.
Is that fair to vulnerable patients in those private facilities? Is it fair for them to have paid taxes or have families paying taxes that subsidize the public nursing homes’ tort claim coverage while the laws allow private nursing homes to be uninsured or under insured for the very same offenses against the elderly? No.
Campaign finance records show that in 2007 Gov. Haley Barbour got $50,000 from the Mississippi Health Care Association (MHCA), the association that represents many of the nursing homes, and $62,000 total from nursing home industry donors.
Campaign finance records show that in 2007, Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant received $50,000 from nursing home operator Ted Cain of Health Services, Inc., in Wiggins, $11,000 from MHCA and $63,250 total from nursing home industry donors.
Campaign finance records show that in 2007, House Speaker Billy McCoy, D-Rienzi, got $5,000 from Cain, and $3,000 from MHCA for a total of $8,000 from the nursing home industry. Clarke, R-Hollandale, in whose committee the nursing home liability insurance bill died, got $1,500 in 2007 campaign contributions from the nursing home industry.
In total, 2007 campaign finance records show that the Mississippi Health Care Association gave a total of $132,000 in contributions to legislators and statewide elected officials.
Lobbying records show in 2009, MHCA paid lobbyist Beth Clay $80,000 to represent the organization’s interests.
In 2010, lobbying records shows that Vanessa Phipps Henderson, John Maxey, Josh Gregory and Quinton Dickerson are MHCA’s registered lobbyists. Gregory and Dickerson are former paid consultants on Bryant’s 2007 campaign.
Even after HB 536 died, Bryant still had another chance to accept Sen. Eric Powell’s amendment to the Vulnerable Adults Act bill to include a requirement for nursing home liability insurance. But Bryant ruled the Powell’s amendment was "not germane" to the Vulnerable Adults bill – a ruling that no doubt pleased the MHCA.