U.S. House Committee Eliminates 141,000 Patient and 2,177 employee Nursing Home Deaths From Reality: Nothing to See There.
According to the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), 141,084 nursing home patients and 2,177 employees have died from the Coronavirus pandemic (https://data.cms.gov/covid-19-nursing-home-data). The House Select Committee on the Coronavirus under the leadership of Congressman James Clyburn – one of the three most powerful Democrats in the House – addressed 249 deaths in meatpacking plants but totally ignored nursing homes.
I have carefully read the Subcommittee’s recently released report More Effective, More Efficient, More Equitable and can find absolutely nothing about the biggest loss of life in an institutionalized population in the history of the United States (see: https://coronavirus.house.gov/news/press-releases/select-subcommittee-s-year-end-staff-report-highlights-oversight-work-releases). Adobe Acrobat PDFs have a search function. Having utilized that function on the report, I can say with certainty that words such as nursing homes, long-term care, skilled nursing, nursing home industry, or any other word that would suggest that elderly and people with disabilities institutionalized in these facilities were of any concern whatsoever to the subcommittee.
How can 141,000 patient and 2,177 employee deaths in one institutionalized population – which constitutes about one percent of the U.S. population in any one year but nearly 20 percent of the COVID-19 deaths since the pandemic appeared in 2020 – be erased from reality? Whose interests are being served by these types of hearings in Congress? Indeed, there has, in fact, been no real serious investigation by the U.S. Congress or any state legislature into the nursing home coronavirus tragedy (at least none that I have found).
The Nursing Home COVID Tragedy Was Avoidable. Therefore, It Is an Atrocity and a Human Rights Violation.
Elderly and disabled Americans were allowed to die because an industry failed to spend the money necessary to save them. The U.S. government has turned over the care of frail and disabled people to an industry well paid to care for them. It is well known and scientifically proven that the industry charged with responsibility for patients in nursing homes has consistently placed shareholder value above medical care. That fact has been demonstrated repeatedly and consistently for the past 70 years that federal and states funds have supported a privatized long-term care and skilled nursing system.
Here are the facts:
Epidemiologists and other scientists renowned in the field of emerging diseases have warned for decades that pandemics like we have experienced in the 2000s would become worse (e.g. See Laurie Garrett, The Coming Plague).
SARS taught the world a lesson about pandemics and the vulnerability of nursing home patients. Hong Kong and other Asian countries took steps to counter future pandemics. The Hong Kong Guidelines were well known throughout the world and yet the U.S. nursing home industry and government regulatory agencies ignored those guidelines while the industry created sophisticated legal and financial structures to drain ever more tax and reimbursement dollars out of the system for the benefit of executives and shareholders (See: https://www.cmaj.ca/content/192/19/ES11; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7899229; https://www.ncbi.nlm.gov/pmc/articles/PMC723424/; https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/may/19/mps-hear-why-hong-kong-had-no-covid-19-care-home-deaths.)
Political contributions suggest that the nursing home industry has tremendous sway over congressional and agency oversight. For instance, of the top 100 2019-2020 contributions to Congressman Clyburn – which total over $1 million dollars – approximately half came from corporations and lobbying groups with a vested interest in nursing home finance.
The American Health Care Association – the nursing home corporation lobbying organization – contributed $10,000 to Congressman Clyburn in the 2019-2020 cycle, but it is important to recognize that the nursing home industry is primarily a finance-insurance-real estate as well as a medical industrial complex with interlocking interests between real estate, finance, and medical sectors of the economy. Therefore, consider the following donations to Chairman Clyburn in 2019-2020:
American Healthcare Association (nursing home corporation Lobby): $10,000
National Association of REITs: $10,000
National Bankers Association: $10,000
American Hospital Association: $10,000
National Association of Realtors: $10,000
Johnson & Johnson: $10,000
Investment Corporation Institute: $10,000
CVS Health: $10,000
Capital Financial: $10,000
Abbot Lab: $10,000
Eli Lilly: $10,000
Bank of America: $10,000
Pensare Acquisition Group: $10,000
Government & Industry Abuse of An Institutionalized Population is A Human Rights Violation Causing A Massive Number of Fatalities. Government Officials Must Be Held Accountable. But there is No Organized Political Movement to Force that to Happen.
The U.S. government has a long history of looking the other way while widespread abuse and neglect continues pervasively throughout a privatized nursing home system funded with taxpayers’ hard earned dollars. Furthermore, over that 70-year history, an aging enterprise has been spawned by the Older Americans Act and do-gooder contributions to 501C3 organizations. We have Area Agencies on Aging, all sorts of aging-related professional organizations, gerontology professional groups, advocacy groups, the AARP, and countless other special interest organizations have settled into a comfortable relationship with government agencies responsible for regulating nursing homes and the industry itself, which has a high powered PR machine. An ongoing game of rope-a-dope between the industry and advocates over minor tweaks to a system that should be ended not mended takes place ad nauseum, ad infinitum in legislatures across the land.
Nursing home neglect and abuse continues on a regular basis while shareholders and executives get fabulously rich from Medicaid and Medicare funded commercial real estate. It appears, however, that a coalition of so-called senior advocacy organizations cannot mobilize to force congress to take a hard look at the COVID-19 nursing home tragedy that didn’t have to happen.