McKnight’s had an article about the tragic case of Brian Lee who was fired by the infamous new governor of Florida Rick Scott. Lee was fired as the director of Florida’s Long-term Care Ombudsman Program (after seven years) for doing his job. He requested ownership information from nursing homes that are given tax payer funds through Medicare and Medicaid. The request was authorized under new federal healthcare legislation which will promote transparency and accountability. Scott fired Lee after operators and industry lobbyists had complained about the request. Rick Scott is owned by Big Insurance.
Consumer Voice Statement on Florida Ombudsman Resignation:
The independence and effectiveness of the Florida long-term care ombudsman program were dealt a severe blow last week by the forced resignation of state ombudsman Brian Lee. The Consumer Voice is shocked that Gov. Rick Scott forced out the ombudsman, who represents some of the state’s most vulnerable residents, on the recommendation of nursing home and assisted living operators who are the subject of the ombudsman program’s oversight.
The ombudsman is mandated under the Older Americans Act to be an independent voice for residents and free of conflicts of interest. Ombudsmen investigate resident complaints and serve as advocates to ensure that residents in nursing homes and assisted living facilities are protected under the law.
"Brian was recognized by his colleagues in Florida and nationally for his commitment to protecting the rights of long-term care residents and working with residents, families and providers to improve care," said Sarah F. Wells, Consumer Voice executive director. Wells said the office must be independent and free of political interference to perform its statutory functions.
Lee was asked to resign after he asked the state’s nursing homes for names of companies and individuals with an ownership and operational interest in their facilities. State ombudsmen were given authority to request the information from Medicare and Medicaid-funded nursing homes in transparency provisions in the health care reform law. The law was the subject of congressional hearings in which witnesses testified that it is often impossible to hold nursing homes accountable for quality because of complex ownership and operating structures. In a recent report, the Government Accountability Office said, "To determine the effect of ownership on nursing home quality of care, it is necessary to have complete and accurate ownership information that provides a clear understanding of the relationship of each owner to the nursing home and any other owners."
Ombudsmen in some states report that nursing homes routinely provide the information when it is requested. In 2012, a summary of the ownership data will be reported on the federal government’s Nursing Home Compare website, which is designed to help families choose a nursing home.
"We are very concerned that the governor of Florida has yielded to industry demands to dismiss an effective advocate for residents in a state that so many elderly Americans choose as their retirement home," said Wells. "As a national voice for long-term care residents, we strongly urge the governor to follow the law and allow the ombudsman program to operate without interference."
The National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization founded as the National Citizens’ Coalition for Nursing Home Reform (NCCNHR) in 1975 by Elma Holder. The organization represents the consumer voice at the national level for quality long-term care, services and supports by advocating for public policies that support quality care and quality of life responsive to consumers’ needs in all long-term-care settings; empowering and educating consumers and families with the knowledge and tools they need to advocate for themselves; training and supporting individuals and groups that empower and advocate for consumers of long-term care; and promoting the critical role of direct-care workers and best practices in quality-care delivery.