On November 9, 2015, CANHR and three nursing home residents filed a 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.
For years, 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 do so in violation of the law in order to increase profits 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 Care Services (“DHCS”) 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.
Individual plaintiffs Bruce Anderson, John Wilson and Robert Austin each won a federally-mandated readmission hearing last summer, 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. Wilson is stuck in a Camarillo hospital because its on-site nursing home refuses to readmit him for care that he desperately needs. 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.
In each of the above cases, DHCS has done nothing to enforce its hearing order while the Department of Public Health (DPH) has taken no enforcement action. In fact, in Mr. Austin’s case, DPH found no violations of state or federal eviction protections despite multiple obvious violations of state and federal eviction protections.
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 it becomes more expensive for nursing homes to violate the law than to honor residents’ rights, nursing homes will continue this illegal and often life-threatening behavior. CANHR raised these concerns to the state for months but received nothing but promises to look into the matter.
We expect the lawsuit will expose the problem and hopefully push the State to enforce its laws and honor our commitment to vulnerable residents who need help.
CANHR is represented by Matt Borden, a partner of San Francisco and New York law firm Braun Hagey & Borden LLP.
To see the CANHR v. Dooley complaint, go to: