Cavalier Distribution of Unsupportable Financial Information Causes Physical Harm and Shorter Lives
Kansas City Public Television (KCPT) is presenting an upcoming program entitled “The State of Aging in Kansas City.” The program as advertised includes a panel discussion and a documentary film. I was shocked to see false claims by the American Health Care Association – the industry lobby – included in the promotional material for the program. For instance, the promo repeats AHCA falsehoods that “nearly 60% of nursing homes are operating at a financial loss” and that “Nearly three of every four facilities are concerned about closure due to staffing shortages.”
This is blatantly false information and serves to shield the industry from responsibility for widespread neglectful care of patients while investors are earning robust returns. It is obvious that KCPT has given the for-profit nursing home industry a major amount of influence in the development of their promotional material without fact checking the industry’s financial claims or consulting with credible scholars and advocates engaged in nursing home research.
Any widespread distribution of nursing home financial misinformation is a devastating blow to efforts at significant reform of the Medicaid and Medicare funded skilled nursing business. Therefore, patients in poorly run nursing homes continue to experience unnecessary pain, discomfort, and shortened lives because of lobbyists’ propaganda.
The industry’s bogus hardship claim is a primary barrier to changing the despicable way elderly and disabled patients are treated in so many long-term care facilities. The AHCA has immense resources to spread a false narrative –– with $128 million in 2021 revenue (https://www.aha.org/system/files/media/file/2022/11/2021-aha-form-990.pdf) and affiliates in all 50 states. Hence, the “we can’t afford to do better” defense serves to undermine serious demands by advocates for stricter regulation and an increase in the quality of care.
Public television has unwittingly placed its imprimatur on industry propaganda. There is scant evidence that the nursing home industry is experiencing widespread loss. Conversely, an abundance of available evidence suggests that historically and during COVID, the nursing home business has been and remains highly lucrative.
Responsible Journalism and Integrity Requires a Correction by KCPT
Apparently, “The State of Aging in Kansas City” will kick off with a town hall & panel discussion on September 5th. The town hall and a documentary will be shown on KCPT on September 14th. Although I was consulted by the independent filmmaker about a year ago who asked that I meet with him to discuss nursing home finance. I did that on a couple of occasions, but I did not know exactly what his project was about. He did say that he was working on a documentary for public television. I didn’t think much about it until I saw the promo and his name attached to the documentary.
The filmmaker told me he had nothing to do with the promotional material and directed me to the person who was responsible for it. I sent that person – who will also MC the townhall meeting – a lengthy email explaining the problems with the information in his promo to which I attached couple of articles that I had authored with my colleague Charlene Harrington, Professor Emeritus at the University of California, San Francisco. His response was, in my view, terse and dismissive.
I have not seen the documentary and cannot speak to its contents. Hopefully, it will help the public with an understanding of the issues facing patients, families, advocates, scholars, and legislators in understanding how we can arrive at a fair return to investors for an acceptable level of care. At this time, we cannot do that because of the raw, rank, political power of the nursing home, hospital, real estate, and finance industries (i.e., medical industrial complex) inside the Washington, D.C. beltway and the 50 state capitols.
For those of us who spend a good proportion of our waking hours in an attempt to counter industry propaganda and provide objective, scientific information, public television misinformation, dispensed to its widespread viewing audience, is like a kick in the solar plexus. It is very difficult to overcome corporate falsehoods in this post-truth era, but it is psychologically devastating when the hard work in attempting to do that is undermined by local public television.