Nursing Homes Want Special Treatment From the Law

Nursing home residents are at the mercy of the institution’s employees. We have written extensively about the horror stories that can happen when those employees become abusers. It happens more often than any of us really know. (To read some of these stories, click the links to our blogs:  Nursing Home Tragedies, More Nursing Home Tragedies, Nursing Home Hell)

An article in The New York Times reveals a ploy that could make care in a nursing home even more precarious.

The salaries of caregivers working in nursing homes are notoriously low, often starting at $10 per hour for work that is physically and mentally difficult. For good and competent workers, that job becomes a stepping stone that they leave as soon as they can find another position that pays more or that offers better benefits. Right now, some nursing homes offer health insurance to their workers…but only if the workers pay part of the premiums. At $10 per hour, the premiums can be impossible. According to the article in The New York Times:

Vanessa Valerio, 25, a certified nursing assistant who earns $10 an hour at Lakeview Christian Home in Carlsbad, N.M., said she was uninsured because she could not afford the coverage offered by her employer.

The chief executive of the Lakeview nursing home, Joanna D. Knox, said the company used to pay the entire premium for employees. It now requires workers to pay $25 of the $585 monthly premium for individual coverage.

“When we started charging $25 a month,” Ms. Knox said, “many employees dropped coverage.” Of the home’s 200 employees, only 87 have elected it, she said.

Why the Problem Will Get Worse

In 2014, employers with 50 or more full-time employees will be required to offer affordable healthcare coverage for their workers. This law was created to help “the little guy,” the workers who are poorly paid and often marginalized in society. They are worked to the bone, but are not provided with an affordable way to take care of their own health. Right now, 26% of nursing home employees and 37% of home care agencies have no health insurance. The new law would protect those workers.

But now, powerful nursing home executives and lobbyists are urging Congress to make nursing homes exempt from the law. They claim that it will make running a nursing home too expensive. Of course, some nursing homes already plead poverty, which is how they justify the poor, sometimes horrific, care of their residents. All the while, a complicated network of parent companies bank huge profits.

To request exemption from the law is another case of claiming poverty, this time to the detriment of the employees…which means that the level of care given to residents will likely dip even lower than it already is. Without healthcare as job benefit, it will become even more difficult for nursing homes to attract qualified staff to care for our vulnerable loved ones.

According to the article in The New York Times:

Charlene A. Harrington, a professor at the School of Nursing at the University of California, San Francisco, said it would be a mistake for Congress or the administration to relieve nursing homes of the obligation to provide coverage to employees.

“It’s scandalous to have nursing home employees taking care of people when they themselves lack coverage and go without care,” Ms. Harrington said. “If employees have health insurance, they are more likely to be treated for illnesses, less likely to pass on infections to nursing home residents and more likely to get early treatment for occupational injuries.”

The rate of injuries in nursing homes is about twice the rate for all occupations, according to the Labor Department. Back injuries are common among those who lift patients and help them get in and out of bed.

If the executives are successful, this will create a problem for the dedicated workers who will toil in a healthcare facility without the benefit of health insurance…for the nursing homes, which will have an even more difficult time finding qualified staff…but especially for vulnerable nursing home residents, who will be cared for by people who are under-paid and perhaps under-qualified. The level of care provided to our elderly loved ones will become more precarious than it is now.

To read the full article from The New York Times, click here:  Nursing Homes Seek Exemptions From Health Law

At HensonFuerst Attorneys, we take our role as advocates for nursing home residents very seriously, and we will continue to protect their rights, to speak for people who have no voice. If you believe someone you know has been injured in a nursing home, please feel free to call us at 1-800-4-LAWMED. Someone is always available—24 hours a day, 365 days a year. You can also learn more on our website at

If you have questions, HensonFuerst has answers.

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