As record profits for nursing homes and their CEO salaries spiral upward, Kentucky's nursing home industry is once again in Frankfort lobbying for legislation that would limit accountability for nursing homes that abuse and neglect our loved ones.
On February 6, I arrived in Frankfort with representatives of the AARP and other groups that advocate for nursing home residents to testify in opposition to Senate Bill 9. Senate Bill 9 bill proposes to increase the size of our government by creating medical review panels for nursing home cases and, as a result, burden nursing home residents with higher costs and a biased venue. There is no question that the bill is another attempt on the part of the nursing home industry to avoid accountability for providing substandard care and endangering our loved ones.
After sitting through more than an hour of blatantly false testimony from the bill's proponents, you can imagine our shock when the bill's sponsor, Senator Julie Denton of Louisville, denied us the right to speak until after Senate Bill 9 was voted out of committee (on party lines) and most of the committee members had left the room. When the bill hit the Senate floor the following week, Denton refused to take questions from fellow Senators about the bill or about the amount of campaign contributions she had received from the nursing home industry.
Simply put, Denton made a mockery of the democratic process and should be ashamed.
Here is the truth about Kentucky nursing homes:
* Forty percent of Kentucky nursing homes are ranked below or much below average by the U.S. Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services;
* In 2012, Kentucky ranked #1 in overall federal fines at over $2 million. In fact, the most heavily fined nursing home in 2012 was in Kentucky;
* Over 3,000 deficiencies were cited in Kentucky since 2009 (nearly 2,000 of which were directly related to resident care, rights, and safety);
* Kentucky ranks #1 in average number of serious deficiencies per home - yet nursing homes get paid regardless of the quality of care;
* Poor care is expensive. For example, national data provides estimates showing preventable pressure sores have cost at least $4.8 million over the past three years and preventable resident falls have cost at least $40 million over the same time period (I emphasize at least) . . . and Kentucky taxpayers pay as much as 80% of these expenses.
Yet nursing home are VERY profitable:
* Nursing home stocks have outpaced the Dow Jones and NASDAQ markets by 2:1 and 9:1 margins respectively over the past six months while returns have ranged anywhere from 29% to as much as 245%, even in a slow economic recovery;
* Nursing home CEO salaries increased by a median 203 percent last year, pushing the average annual salary to almost $3.5 million. Key executive compensation also increased by 15% between 2008 and 2011, while front-line caregiver hours remained stagnant.
Kentucky nursing homes need more accountability, not less.
Senator Denton and her colleagues who voted for this bill need to remember their duties are to the vulnerable citizens of this Commonwealth and not the out-of-state nursing home corporation who fund their reelection campaign.
Call 1-800-372-7181 and ask your legislators to protect our loved ones living in nursing homes and assisted living facilities by saying NO to Senate Bill 9.