Due to the persistent efforts of LeadingAge, American Health Care Association, and a host of nursing home providers and suppliers, the Kansas legislature passed a bill that protects long-term care providers from law suits for dereliction and negligence during the COVID-19 pandemic. The legislation grants immunity to providers except for “gross negligence” on the part of the staff. Good luck with proving that.
Sympathy expressed for the operators is one of the most disgusting facets of the proponents’ framing of the issues. According to the Kansas City Star, “proponents of the bill argued that nursing homes were not given proper guidance and resources from state agencies at the onset of the pandemic.” Senator Kellie Warren, a Leawood Republican, was quoted as saying, “That we as a state didn’t provide those things but we’re also not going to provide them immunity is an untenable situation for adult care homes” (https://www.kansascity.com/news/politics-government/article250201305.html).
I’ve seen this frame before. The industry is blaming government agencies for not providing them with sufficient training in infectious disease control and for not providing them with personal protective equipment. Providers have been well-reimbursed and investors have extracted excessive funds out of a care system for frail elderly and disabled patients, but they don’t believe they are expected to operate their businesses professionally.
If you follow the press releases on the AHCA/NCAL website, this framing of the issue will sound very familiar. The attitude of the industry is “it’s not our fault, we didn’t know anything about rapidly spreading novel viruses.” Although the long-term care industry has been in the business since 1950, and although it has spawned millionaires and billionaires, operators aren’t capable of taking proper care of people for whom they are paid to be responsible.
I’m wondering what planet I’m living on when I see learned helplessness as an excuse for gross negligence and incompetence. And I say to activists, journalists, and others, please don’t think that the non-profit arm of this business is qualitatively better than the for profits (with the exception of a tiny number of not for profit facilities). The Evangelical Lutheran Good Samaritan chain is the largest non-profit and one of the largest in general. It’s care is as subpar as the low quality for-profits (which is most of them).
LeadingAge: The Non-profit Nursing Home Lobbying Organization is Leading the Charge for Immunity
Rachel Monger, the lobbyist for LeadingAge Kansas, expressed her opposition to an earlier immunity bill in Kansas worked out between Governor Kelly and the legislature. She was of the opinion that the bill did not go far enough in relieving providers of responsibility for neglect and dereliction because “the affirmative defense shield” left providers open to attack. Ms. Monger is of the opinion that the earlier legislation “amount to ‘demoralizing punishment.”
I’ve seen Ms. Monger in action several times at legislative hearings. For instance, I observed her argument against stiffer regulation of psychotropics. She claimed that the providers had a profit margin of a half percent. In corporate speak, this sounds like child babble, but she was waving the Clifton, Larsen, Allen (CLA) annual report around, which is bogus. I look at these industry propaganda pieces every year.
What are Nursing Homes? What Are Operators Expected to Know?
The attitude of the industry is this: “We’re running medical facilities full of medically vulnerable patients, but we can’t be expected to know much about infectious diseases.” In other words, their business is protecting and enhancing shareholder value – not reinvesting earnings in innovative and higher quality, medically ethical, professional care. It’s about the money. If they say, “it’s not about the money,” it’s about the money. Warehousing people at the lowest possible cost is their mode of running their institutions.
I have been warning and will continue warning ad nauseum, ad infinitum, that by letting the industry off the hook for the 300,000 preventable deaths, the lives of medically fragile people in nursing homes will be seriously endangered. If operators and their corporate holding companies can get away with their negligence of the past year, the message will be this: the lives of people in your care aren’t that valuable, so cut costs, warehouse patients, and extract as much cash as possible out of the system.