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Fines for nursing home neglect being decreased

Many nursing homes in Camden County, New Jersey, rely on receiving payments from Medicare and Medicaid, both government health care programs, in order to stay in business. This is a useful setup for preventing nursing home deaths, since these programs can insist that the nursing homes adhere to certain minimum standards.

When the homes fail to meet these standards, the homes can impose a fine or penalty or, in more severe cases, put a temporary or permanent ban on the home's taking on Medicare patients, which would include a huge segment of the elderly population. Over recent years, Medicare has aggressively fined nursing homes that, for whatever reason, did not follow the rules and, according to some, thereby endangered patients' lives.

However, the new President's Administration has taken a different view on these fines and, at the request of a trade association of nursing homes, has chosen to scale back both the frequency and severity of these fines. According to reports, this more lenient approach is aimed at nursing homes who have isolated violations or those of a minor nature.

While the idea behind this change is that having to comply with detailed regulations may actually cause nursing home staff to spend less time affording their patients quality care, some argue that the change just gives homes more leeway to turn a blind eye to abuse or neglect within their walls.

No matter what the regulations say, however, New Jersey residents can take comfort in the fact that even if a government agency chooses not to fine a home after an unnecessary patient death, a family can still hold the home accountable via a wrongful death cause of action.

Source: The Hill, "Trump admin rolling back us of fines against nursing homes," Rebeca Savransky, Dec. 26, 2017.

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