The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has finally concluded what we all knew to be true:  Nursing homes go unpunished for the abuse and neglect suffered by residents. See story here

Federal health officials impose only minimal penalties on nursing homes repeatedly cited for mistreatment of patients.  As a result, nursing homes cycle in and out of compliance with federal standards and pose a continued threat to the health and safety of patients.

”Some of these homes repeatedly harmed residents over a six-year period and yet remain in the Medicare and Medicaid programs,” said the report, to be issued this week by the Government Accountability Office, an investigative arm of Congress.

The Department of Health and Human Services ”fails to hold homes with a long history of harming residents accountable for the poor care provided,” the investigators said.

Congress established stringent standards for nursing homes in 1987. In 1998, the GAO reported that ”homes can repeatedly harm residents without facing sanctions.”  About 1.5 million people live in the nation’s 16,400 nursing homes on any given day.

The GAO said federal health officials hesitated to impose fines of more than $200 a day, in part because they believed that larger penalties ”could bankrupt some homes.” Fines are generally so small that nursing homes view them as a ”cost of doing business,” with ”no more effect than a slap on the wrist,” the report said.

Here is a good example where a nursing home was fined for overmedicating a resident and then officials withdrew the fine!

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