What lobbying group donated the most money to political campaigns for the legislators and governor of Louisiana? You might guess oil and gas, telecommunications, or banking. If you did, you were wrong. For-profit nursing homes topped all of those with $2.8 million dollars contributed to various political campaigns in an attempt to gain influence and push laws favorable to their continued profitability. Governor Bobby Jindal alone received more than $715,000. Louisiana has the lowest ranked nursing homes in the entire nation, and some nursing home owners who are the most generous donors just happen to own some of the worst nursing homes in the state. A closer look at reporting for the state shows for-profit homes generally rate lower quality with average of 2.5 out of 5 and non-profits at 3.5 out of 5.
So what do these for-profit nursing homes get out of all this generosity? One Louisiana law sets a cap on fines. For instance, a violation that results in the death of a resident now results in a fine no larger than $2,500, even if the death is entirely the nursing home’s fault.
We might also look at the Jindal administration’s budget, which has increased nursing home spending while simultaneously cutting funding to LSU hospital system, slashing Medicare payments to private hospitals, reducing Medicaid payments to rural hospitals, and completely shutting down a hospital for the mentally ill.
How is the administration paying for the nearly $800 million in nursing home funding when the rest of the healthcare system is being forced to take cuts and closures? By draining a trust fund intended to provide elder care for years to come. The fund is intended to be used over a long term and should also provide support for in-home care and community services for the elderly. At the rate that the trust fund is currently being emptied into for-profit nursing homes, there will be nothing left by the time Jindal leaves office in 2016.
Roughly 20,000 Louisiana residents are on a waiting list for in-home care, while demand for nursing home beds has gone down. Nursing homes in the state remain only 75% full. The slump in demand isn’t bad news for these for-profit businesses however. They get a kickback for vacancies too. Once the numbers are crunched, all those empty beds cost the state and taxpayers $23 million dollars to support.
All of these revelations are the result of a four-month investigation and report by NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune and WVUE Fox 8 News which culminated in their report series Louisiana Purchased. The report on nursing homes may be watched here.