San Francisco, CA – Non-profit California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform (CANHR) and three nursing home residents filed an explosive lawsuit against the California Secretary of Health and Human Services, Diana Dooley, charging that the State is willfully violating federal laws that protect against dumping nursing home residents into hospitals.
California nursing homes have been sending Medi-Cal residents to acute care hospitals and refusing to allow them to return to the nursing homes where they reside, the suit alleges. They are doing so in violation of the law in order to increase revenues and make space for more lucrative Medicare and private pay residents.
Federal law forbids the practice by requiring states like California to offer a readmission hearing that provides for the “prompt” readmission of residents. While the California Department of Health and Human Services (“DHHS”) provides a hearing, the State is refusing to enforce its own hearing decisions, leaving patients with no way to return home. As a result of the facilities’ refusal to readmit, residents are forced to remain in expensive hospital beds that have cost Californians over $70,000,000 for unnecessary hospitalization costs.
According to Patricia McGinnis, Executive Director of non-profit CANHR, “Patient dumping by nursing homes has become an epidemic in California, particularly since no state agency wants to take responsibility for enforcing the law. Until and unless we make it more expensive for nursing homes to violate the law than to honor residents’ rights, nursing homes will continue this illegal and life-threatening behavior. This lawsuit will expose the problem and hopefully push the State to enforce its laws and honor our commitment to vulnerable residents who need help.”
Individual plaintiffs Bruce Anderson, John Wilson and Robert Austin each won his federally-mandated readmission hearing. But the nursing homes where they lived have refused to readmit them. Mr. Anderson has been chemically restrained with drugs and confined in a hospital bed for several months, even though he is able to walk. Mr. Austin was shipped from Sacramento, where his family lives, all the way to Los Angeles because he had nowhere else to go, according to the complaint.
“It’s been heartbreaking to have a facility that is supposed to specialize in caring for patients exactly like my dad refuse to let him return to the place he’s known as home for over four years. Then the State declared my Dad entitled to be admitted back to Norwood Pines, but it did nothing to enforce the decision when Norwood Pines refused. We’ve been dealing with this for five months now and we just don’t know what else to do. I feel like the State has let my dad down,” said Sara Anderson, Plaintiff Bruce Anderson’s daughter.
“Each day they are not at home, they suffer cruel and irreparable injury.” states plaintiffs’ counsel Matthew Borden of BraunHagey & Borden LLP. “This practice is clearly illegal,” he continues. “Three years ago, the federal government told California that it was violating federal law, and they did nothing to comply. The time has come for the State to protect its elderly citizens and stop this abusive practice,” Mr. Borden added. To read the complaint, CLICK HERE (PDF).