Bullet: USA Today
"Burns" Nursing Homes
Monday, October 10, 2005
LTC Comment: USA
Today's expose' of nursing home fire safety blames the victim and invites
the culprit to fix the problem.
LATE FLASH: A
fact checker from USA Today just called to say they are considering
publishing my letter to the editor (see below) in Wednesday's issue.
If they do, we'll let you know.
LTC BULLET: USA
TODAY "BURNS" NURSING HOMES
LTC Comment: On
Friday, October 7, USA Today ran a series of articles criticizing nursing
homes for inadequate fire safety. You
can find each article listed with hyperlinks at http://asp.usatoday.com/search/yahoo/search.aspx?qt=news&nr=10&kw=nursing+homes.
Today, the paper followed up with an editorial titled
Enforcement Threatens Nursing Home Residents" http://www.usatoday.com/news/opinion/editorials/2005-10-09-nursing-home-edit_x.htm.
I think USA Today mis-diagnosed the problem.
They blame nursing homes for fire safety shortcomings.
They call on government to fix the problem.
Ironically, government caused the problem and the solution is less, not
more, government involvement in long-term care.
Following is my letter to the editor of USA Today
critiquing their articles and editorial. The
newspaper asks that such letters not exceed 250 words.
To the editor:
Your nursing home investigation (10/7/5) and editorial
(10/9/5) disappoint. You ask:
"How many more preventable deaths will it take before federal and
state regulators and Congress crack down on nursing homes that are fire
traps?" You blame the victim
and invite the culprit to fix the problem.
Nursing homes are heavily dependent on Medicaid
reimbursement. Medicaid reimburses
nursing homes at only 75 percent of private-pay rates on average.
That's $4.5 billion short of break even overall; $12.58 per bed day less
than nursing homes need to operate. Despite
this dismally low reimbursement level, nursing homes make heroic efforts to
provide quality care and fire safety. Hands
on caregivers deserve special mention. They
are paid too little, expected to do too much, and blamed whenever something goes
So, what's the real problem? Who's the real culprit?
And what should be done? Easy
eligibility for Medicaid nursing home benefits, exacerbated by abusive
"Medicaid planners" who artificially impoverish affluent clients to
make them eligible, has anesthetized the American public to the risk and cost of
long-term care. So, few buy private
insurance or use their home equity to pay for care. Consequently, too many people end up on Medicaid (welfare)
which pays too little to ensure quality care or fire safety.
Do you see the irony of sending in government regulators to fix problems
Medicaid to the genuinely needy and use the savings to incentivize responsible
long-term care planning through private insurance and home equity
Stephen A. Moses, President
Center for Long-Term Care Reform