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Bipartisan U.S. Senate bill addresses nursing home abuse

Less than 5% of the nursing homes in Florida and around the country account for an overwhelming number of elderly abuse and neglect cases reported or discovered each year. This was among the discoveries made by U.S. Senate investigators who studied nursing home resident care and reported their findings in 2019. The vast majority of these facilities are part of the Special Focus and Facility program, which was established to identify nursing homes with lengthy lists of violations and long histories of abuse and neglect. Facilities in the SFF program are expected to make changes and improve the quality of care they provide, but they rarely face official sanctions for failing to do so.

Legislative action

The report has prompted senators from both major parties to introduce the Nursing Home Reform Modernization Act. If the bill passes, it will expand and improve the SFF program and create a subcategory for under-performing facilities that could become part of the program if they fail to improve. The bill will also rebrand the SFF program as the Low-Rated Facility Program and make it easier for members of the public to check nursing home rankings and violations. The senators behind the bill say the goal of the proposed legislation is to encourage poor nursing homes to improve and provide them with the help they need.

Punitive measures

Nursing homes that provide substandard care will face far harsher sanctions than they have in the past if the bill is passed. Allegations of nursing home abuse will lead to investigations and audits from agencies including the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Government Accountability Office, and the facilities involved could be fined or even closed down. The bill is expected to pass because it has attracted the support of virtually every nonprofit senior citizen advocacy group in the United States.

A step in the right direction

Groups that advocate on behalf of abused or neglected senior citizens may support legislative efforts like this one that addresses widespread and disturbing abuse in elderly care facilities. These facilities rely on Medicare and Medicaid payments to stay in business, so it would be wise for them to make whatever changes are necessary to protect this source of income and ensure the well-being of their residents.

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