Politico’s Samuel Loewenberg wrote an article about how high priced lobbyists are attempting to get rid of necessary reforms for nursing home care to improve.
The profitable nursing home industry is mobilizing Washington’s most well-connected lobbyists to fight needed reforms, Recently state and federal investigators and outside experts have agreed to certain reforms as a gaggle of industry lobbyists plotted strategy.
Among the lobbysts was The Carlyle Group, the politically connected and powerful private equity firm that recently bought Manor Care, one of the nation’s largest nursing home chain, for $6.3 billion.
“In spite of existing oversight mechanisms, we continue to see examples of horrific treatment of nursing home residents,” testified Lewis Morris, general counsel for the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of the Inspector General.
The lobbyists are carefully watching the Senate, where legislation could increase the oversight and enforcement of the industry. It is well documented how deficient the oversight and enforcement of the industry is as evidenced by the recent GAO Report. The senators are expected to try to attach the legislation to the upcoming Medicare payments package.
The industry lobbyists are fighting provisions to fully disclose ownership of nursing homes. Why? No one knows. Clearly, families of residents should be able to understand who owns and operates the facility where they place loved ones.
Additionally, penalties would be increased to as much as $100,000 if a patient is harmed or dies due to poor care. The penalties, which have not been changed in two decades, are now capped at $10,000.
To gird for the increased regulation, the industry is using a half-dozen of Washington’s most politically potent lobbying firms on both sides of the aisle. “It is going to be pretty much battening down the hatches, because we’re not going to have a fair shake with a Democratic majority,” said a nursing home industry lobbyist who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
Since Carlyle took over Manor Care, some homes have reported significant patient care problems, said SEIU spokeswoman Julie Eisenhardt. Meanwhile lobbyists for The Carlyle Group are stating that there is no evidence that private equity ownership negatively impacts care. Both the Government Accountability Office and the Senate Finance Committee are still investigating the negative effect of private equity ownership on nursing home quality.
The issue is at the heart of one of the most controversial parts of the Grassley-Kohl legislation: a requirement that the sometimes-twisted ownership structures of nursing homes be made more transparent. Congressional staff, experts, and advocates for the elderly say that private equity firms often establish layers in ownership structure as a way to dodge responsibility and legal liability.
And GAO reported how federal government regulators often miss signs of abuse and care deficiencies, ranging from failure to ensure “proper nutrition and hydration and [prevent] pressure sores” to serious deficiencies that could lead to “actual harm and immediate jeopardy.”