The COVID-19 pandemic has unleashed chaos on nearly every aspect of our lives. Not only is this a significant global health crisis, but also an economic one. As we learned early in the pandemic, there are various groups of people who are particularly susceptible to becoming seriously ill due to COVID-19. In general, most people in a nursing home are considered higher risk concerning illness and death from coronavirus. Unfortunately, there have been reports of nursing homes across the United States kicking out disabled and elderly residents and sending them to homeless shelters or rundown hotels. Here, we want to look at why this is occurring.
Are They Clearing Out Less-Profitable Residents?
According to various reports, some nursing homes around the country have been moving less-profitable residents from their facilities in order to make room for residents who would generate more income – those with COVID-19. In many of the evictions, there has been a common theme of them being Medicaid patients.
Nursing homes have long been accused of evicting Medicaid patients in favor of those who pay through Medicare or private insurance, which reimburses nursing homes at a higher rate than Medicaid. According to the New York Times, more than 10,000 residents and families across the country reported to watch dogs and regulatory bodies about their loved ones being discharged in 2018, the most recent year of data available.
The pandemic had intensified this situation.
There have been reports of dementia patients being evicted and found wandering the streets days later. A woman who was on Hospice care in Texas was evicted from her nursing home.
Behind these evictions seems to be the desire for profit. During this COVID-19 pandemic, state officials in multiple areas have sought assistance from health care facilities that could accommodate COVID-19 patients who are recovering and still need nursing care. In many of these cases, the daily care rates paid for COVID-19 patients far exceed the amount of money that a nursing home facility receives for its regular residents.
Are COVID-19 Nursing Home Evictions Legal?
Under federal law, nursing homes are only allowed to discharge residents only under various circumstances. This includes if the resident’s health improves, the facility can no longer meet the resident’s needs, if the resident endangers the health and safety of other residents, the facility stops operating, or the resident has not paid and receives proper notification of a pending eviction.
In addition to these requirements, nursing homes cannot discharge a resident without prior planning and proper notice. This generally means a notice 30 days before discharge to allow a resident and their family to find a safe place to go.
Unfortunately, according to a report from the New York times, nursing homes have been able to discharge residents without following proper federal law often because family members and long term care ombudsmen Have not been able to enter the nursing homes due to COVID-19 social distancing and quarantine requirements.
What Can You Do if You or a Loved One Was Improperly Discharged?
Residents or their family members who fear a nursing home is trying to improperly discharge their loved ones have a few options:
Call the local Ombudsman responsible for the facility you are complaining about. Nursing homes in California are required to post, in a visible location, the phone number for the local Ombudsman office that you should call.
Call the CRISISline. You can call at 1-800-231-4024, which is a line available to report abuse and neglect in long term care facilities that is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The CRISISline will put you in contact with the right agency and district office
Document in writing that you are objecting to the discharge and state the reasons why. Provide this writing to a supervisor or the Administrator of the nursing home.
If you or your family member are facing eviction from a nursing home, you have the right to fight the discharge. If you or a loved one has been evicted wrongfully already, you may be entitled to compensation. Please contact a nursing home abuse attorney to find out steps you can take to file a lawsuit in these cases.