LTC Bullet:  USA Today "Burns" Nursing Homes 

Monday, October 10, 2005 

Washington, DC-- 

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 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  

Today, the paper followed up with an editorial titled "Lax Enforcement Threatens Nursing Home Residents"  

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 wrong. 

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 government caused? 

Solution:  target Medicaid to the genuinely needy and use the savings to incentivize responsible long-term care planning through private insurance and home equity conversion. 

Stephen A. Moses, President
Center for Long-Term Care Reform