I recently read an article about Charles Grassley, Republican Senator from Iowa who is on the Senate Finance Committee asking long term care insurance companies to explain how they are handling policy holders’ claims. This is the quote I love the most: "Many long-term care insurers have recently announced that they are raising premiums because they underestimated how many policy holders would eventually make claims." Hmm, that’s interesting. You’re selling insurance for long-term care to the elderly – can’t you just assume that most of these people will eventually make a claim? Or are the insurance companies betting that people will die before they need nursing home care?
Its sad that people pay into the insurance companies for coverage, and then get the run-around to collect on their claims. And worse than that, my guess is that many of these "insured" are not in the position to stay on the phone arguing with the insurance company in an effort to get the claims paid – and the insurance company probably bets on this too.
Additionally, Senator Grassley has asked the Government Accountability Office to look at the effect of private equity ownership on quality of care in nursing homes. According to a recent NY Times article, the number of serious health deficiencies is 19% higher in homes owned by investment firms than in average nursing homes, indicating most likely that these firms are putting profits over people. One of the things that Senator Grassley points out is that the public is in the dark about nursing home deficiencies, and about the extensiveness of deficiencies industry wide.
If the public was more informed about the quality of care (or lack thereof) in nursing homes, then there would be more demand for reform – and I’m not talking about tort reform, I’m talking about nursing home reform.
I think it bears remembering that there are many victims here: first and foremost are the residents and their families; but we can’t forget the staff in nursing homes that are often underpaid, under-trained, and overworked – they are victims too. And if investment firms cut budgets to increase profits, the victimization of the staff gets worse right along with the victimization of the patients. That’s a lose – lose situation.
Cheers to Senator Grassley for stirring the pot – hopefully it will lead to change.