Will we Just Bail Out the Industry & Move On?
Because it was a white wash, I have been critical of the CMS Commission on COVID in Nursing Homes. On September 16, 2020, the Trump Administration issued a press release with the title “Independent Nursing Home COVID-19 Commission Findings Validate Unprecedented Federal Response.” Probably another 100,000 patients will have died in long-term care institutions between that “big lie” (typical of autocratic regimes) and when the pandemic is under control.
Although the report shamefully let CMS, state agencies, and the industry off the hook for dereliction of their duties, the claim that it validated the federal response was blatant propaganda. I’m dismayed that I haven’t heard that from the advocates, scholars, lobbyists, and industry representatives who served on the commission.
Here’s the truth: staffing in many facilities has deteriorated to the point that the industry is calling for help from the National Guard. Apparently, they are receiving that help because nurses and other employees are leaving to work in hospitals and clinics. In addition to receiving an unknown amount of payroll protection assistance under the CARES Act and other supplemental payments, owners now want the National Guard to pick up slack in their workforce (see Sydney Hoover, “Kansas Nursing Home Officials Push for Staffing Aid” https://www.kansascity.com/new/coronavirus/article248477490.html). Apparently this military assistance has already been provided in some areas such as San Diego.
If that is what is required to save as many lives as possible, I’m all for it. However, I will keep agitating for a reckoning when the pandemic is under control. I want to know how much extraction of federal and state funds has taken place for the sake of investors and at the expense of saving lives. The best we can do in determining that is look at the financial statements of for-profit enterprises or the 990s of the non-profits. If facilities are owned by non-public corporations, we will not be able to see what was reasonably extracted. However, publicly held corporations will soon be submitting their 10-K reports to the Securities & Exchange Commission.
I will be going through those 10-Ks as soon as they are available. If they reflect what we have seen in quarterly reports for the past year, then we need to ask why so many people died while executives, board members and shareholders gave up very little – if anything. We need to ask why some of the biggest owners sat on a pile of cash and continued to do business as if there were no pandemic.
What we have seen is euthanasia by neglect during the past year. If we do not hold the responsible parties in government and industry accountable, we will see even less regard for human life in long-term care institutions in the future. The industry will be further emboldened to deny treatment for the benefit of high net worth individuals who see long-term care as a good place to park their wealth and keep it from the IRS.