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Patient Advocates Ask HHS Not to Exempt Nursing Homes From Health Care Reform

As a Philadelphia medical malpractice lawyer, I wrote disapprovingly last month about the push among nursing home companies for an exemption from the Affordable Care Act. The Act is the official name of the health care reform law that has become the focus of several political fights, and one of its many provisions requires companies with 50 employees or more to provide health care to their employees. Companies that failed to do this would be fined. At least one industry group has told the media that the homes cannot afford to provide it because they have only a limited ability to raise their prices. Now, according to a June 20 article from Healthcare Finance News, nursing home patient advocates are actively opposing this with a letter of protest to the federal Department of Health and Human Services.

The group of 24 patient advocacy organizations was headed by Families for Better Care, a Florida-based group run by a former Florida nursing home ombudsman, Brian Lee. The letter called the industry’s request an “outrage” that could have “disastrous consequences for residents.” By exempting health care workers from the requirement to provide health insurance, the letter argued, the government would allow nursing home employees to continue coming to work sick, exposing their vulnerable patients to illnesses their compromised immune systems find hard to fight off. The letter also pointed out the very high rate of workplace injuries suffered by direct-care workers and the low wages that make it difficult for them to take time off or buy insurance in the open market. In an accompanying press release, Lee pointed out that nursing homes are largely government-funded and profitable. A McKnight’s Long-Term Care News article suggested that the industry may be moderating its request.

I hope so. As a Pennsylvania nursing home lawyer, I do not believe it is in the best interests of anybody but nursing home owners to give them an exemption. People in the lowest-paid jobs frequently work when they’re sick because they can’t afford a doctor or a day off. Giving these workers access to basic health care would allow them to call in sick less often and get better faster. Not only would this limit residents’ exposure to illness — a goal in any facility where contagion is likely — but it ensures that care is not interrupted by frequent turnover or substitutes. And that, as research has repeatedly demonstrated, reduces the chance of Pennsylvania nursing home abuse, neglect and other negative outcomes for patients. When the federal government considers this requests, as a Philadelphia injury lawyer, I hope it does so with patients’ best interests in mind.

Rosenbaum & Associates represents clients who have suffered a loss or a serious illness in the family because of the negligence of a nursing home or its staff. If this has happened to you, don’t hesitate to contact us to learn more about your rights and options. For a free consultation, call us toll-free at 1-800-7-LEGAL-7 or send us a message online.

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