Bill would crack down on bad nursing homes


Highlights

Texas nursing homes are cited for violations but seldom penalized.

A new bill would give penalties for lesser violations.

State lawmakers are trying to crack down on bad nursing homes after data has shown that the state government gives many troubled facilities a free pass each year.

In fiscal 2015, state officials cited nursing homes for 17,466 state violations, but officials took just 40 enforcement actions, according to a report released by AARP Texas last month. Most of the serious violations occurred in 328 of the state’s 1,200 facilities, but the state collected fines from only 22 of them, letting others escape accountability when vulnerable residents are hurt, the organization said.

In fiscal 2016, the state imposed 51 administrative penalties on nursing facilities, which committed 18,089 violations during that time, according to state officials.

State law allows long-term care facilities to avoid state penalties by addressing certain violations within 45 days of receiving notice, as long as there was no serious harm or threat to residents or limits to the facility’s ability to provide care. State Sen. Charles Schwertner, R-Georgetown, filed a bill Thursday to require penalties for lesser violations, directing the Texas Health and Human Services Commission to develop sanctions based on the violations’ scope and severity, and to increase financial penalties for most serious violations.

Senate Bill 932 goes a long way toward holding nursing home owners and operators in Texas accountable when they hurt residents and jeopardize their health,” AARP Texas director Bob Jackson said.

Schwertner said he wanted the bill to “send a clear and unambiguous message that we’re serious about protecting our most vulnerable citizens from abuse and neglect.”

A Sunset Advisory Commission report in 2014 concluded that the state agency that oversees nursing homes didn’t do enough to penalize chronic violators. Two years ago, the Senate approved a similar bill but it failed in the House. Instead, lawmakers passed a law that lets the commission revoke a nursing home’s license if the facility amasses three or more violations related to abuse or neglect in a two-year period.

Kevin Warren, head of the Texas Health Care Association, which represents nursing homes, said in an opinion article in the Houston Chronicle this week that “woefully inadequate funding — not a lack of regulation — is the real problem.” He has said the state has underfunded Medicaid reimbursement rates to nursing homes by $800 million.

“We will continue to work with the senator to support efforts to prevent serious violations from occurring; including the overdue need for adequate funding to allow proper staffing and resources needed for high-quality care in Texas nursing homes,” Warren told the American-Statesman on Friday.

Schwertner also filed a bill Thursday that would reform provisions that let home health care agencies avoid penalties if they take corrective action within a certain period of time. He filed another bill that would require all nursing facilities in Texas to carry liability insurance coverage of $300,000 per occurrence and $1 million in aggregate.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Texas News & Politics

'Unknown' veteran's funeral draws hundreds of strangers 
'Unknown' veteran's funeral draws hundreds of strangers 

He may have been an unknown soldier in life, but Glenn McCoy Shelton’s death brought hundreds of strangers together to honor the former Marine with a dignified sendoff. Shelton, 68, a Vietnam veteran and a Purple Heart recipient, died Nov. 26, WXIN reported. Indiana Funeral Care organized Saturday’s gathering by spreading the word...
Power outage reported at Atlanta airport
Power outage reported at Atlanta airport

Power is out at Hartsfield-Jackson international Airport and all flights are being held, officials said Sunday  The airport is currently holding all inbound flights until at least 4 p.m. and departure delays are averaging nearly an hour and a half, according to  FlightAware. The outage was first reported about 1:15 p.m. Flyers should...
Austin medics respond to multiple calls of K2 overdoses Sunday
Austin medics respond to multiple calls of K2 overdoses Sunday

Austin-Travis County EMS has taken two men to Dell Seton Medical Center for K2 overdoses, the second incident today at the same location involving multiple people needing medical care after taking the synthetic drug, authorities said. Both incidents, the first at roughly 11:30 a.m. and another about an hour later, happened beneath the Interstate 35...
Study: Uber reduces ambulance usage nationwide
Study: Uber reduces ambulance usage nationwide

A study by a pair of university researchers has concluded that Uber and other ride-booking services have caused a drop in ambulance usage nationwide, The San Jose Mercury News reported.  A research paper released Wednesday is believed to be the first study to measure the impact of Uber and other ride-booking services. The study...
BREAKING UPDATE: APD officer shot stabbing assailant after dispute
BREAKING UPDATE: APD officer shot stabbing assailant after dispute

2 p.m. update: An Austin police officer shot and wounded a man who stabbed and critically injured another man outside a home in Northwest Hills on Sunday, officials said. According to police, the officer shot a 59-year-old man who refused to drop his knife and advanced toward him after stabbing a 69-year-old man. Both men are in the hospital, and the...
More Stories