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Why are we Giving $1.5 Billion To Nursing Home Chains

We're all hurting from COVID-19. Unemployment is skyrocketing, businesses of all kinds are shut down, schools are closed, and our livesare topsy-turvy.Thankfully, of course, our Federal Government stepped in to protect those hardest hit by the crisis with a $2 trillion relief packagethat gives jobless benefits and direct payments to taxpayers.

As a country,we're bailing out the airlines and cruise ships, so it seems like maybe it's also a good idea to bail out the nursing homes too, right?

The nursing home industry successfully lobbied to be included in the stimulus package legislation, and later this week skilled nursing facilities (SNFs) across the U.S. will start the first of many payouts,  receiving $1.5 Billion in direct payments.  And this first of many installment payments of $1.5 Billion is with no strings attached.

OMG! What?! Is anyone thinking this through clearly?

The difference between nursing home chains and most small-to-medium sized businesses in the U.S. is that throughout the crisis, it's been a continued and steady business for skilled nursing facilities (who before COVID-19 their largest pay or has been Medicare and Medicaid). Their doors aren't closed. Their staff isn't being laid off. Their revenue sources aren't disrupted. That's because those nursing home companies are already funded by a hugely reliable source: The Federal Government through Medicare and Medicaid. Their revenue never stopped flowing.

So, if these facilities are not taking on more residents, and they always have had an obligation to have infection control practices and provide sufficient staffing levels to meet residents' needs,  why does this industry need extra funding? Who's getting that extra $1.5 billion with no strings attached?!

We must hope that these skilled nursing facilities will use the stimulus funds for increased staffing, and to make sure they have good protective equipment for their staff and good infection control practices. We should now be expecting that residents in nursing homes will be getting better care because that $1.5 billion will make things better, right?

Did lobbyists for the skilled nursing facility industry use this epic disaster as an opportunity to grab even more money from the government, on top of the money they are already getting to take care of our nation's most vulnerable population? Such facilities should have already had more than adequate precautions in place to prevent outbreaks of COVID-19 because Federal guidelines were set up many years ago for just such eventualities. Funds already paid to these licensed facilities should have been used for infection control and disease prevention, all along, with adequate staffing levels and PPE.

When you see news stories of rampant outbreaks of COVID-19 in nursing homes, consider that the failure of many of the facilities to deal with that virus isn't due to a problem with all nursing homes, it's just a problem with those specific nursing homes that were poorly managed and which did not follow the state and federal guidelines. Is it conceivable that their residents suffered not because there was inadequate funding but because the funds were misallocated for corporate profits and inflated salaries for corporate executives?

Meanwhile, lobbyists for the nursing home industry is also lobbying to be immune from criminal and civil liability while they also have their hands out for no strings attached federal funds.  The funds should have been guaranteed to go to increased safety and patient care and protection.  But not with "no strings attached!!

Attorney Wendy York of York Law Firm specializes in prosecuting elder abuse and wrongful death cases.