Articles Posted in Sexual Abuse

CMS is preparing to fine nursing home staff and volunteers for refusing to report elder abuse, the agency announced. While the federal agency has been able to fine nursing homes for failing to report abuse, a recent government report showed that crimes against the elderly are still commonplace in nursing homes across the country. The report chided CMS, or the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, for failing to protect America’s senior citizens and recommended aggressive action.

A federal law enacted in 2011 gives CMS the authority to fine individual staff and volunteers at nursing homes across the country, according to Modern Healthcare. The government agency said it will begin seeking civil monetary penalties (or CMPs) of up to $200,000 for staff and volunteers who fail to “report reasonable suspicion of crimes.” The proposed regulation would also protect “whistleblowers” by withdrawing all federal funds from any nursing homes who retaliate against them.

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Elder abuse is one of the most widespread and under-reported problems in the country. However, despite the prevalence of elder mistreatment, the federal government does not gather data or require reporting for the crime against America’s senior citizens. With the population of Americans over the age of 65 expected to double by 2050, elder care advocates are urging the federal government to stiffen enforcement and begin tracking elder abuse cases across the country.

Elder abuse encompasses a wide range of illegal behaviors, from sexual abuse and financial exploitation to outright neglect by family members, caretakers, or nursing homes. Unfortunately, the federal government has not provided states with a precise definition of what behaviors constitute “elder abuse” and therefore, the exact definition varies depending on the state. When the federal government attempted to gather data on the subject for the first time this year, federal bureaucrats described the data received from states as incomplete, according to USA Today.

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Over a decade after a scathing article in the New York Post about the low-quality of care provided in many New York City nursing homes, the problem continues unabated at many nursing facilities. In 2006, the New York Department of Health fined 48 nursing homes in the five boroughs – including eight with violations so severe that nursing home residents were in “immediate jeopardy.” These nursing homes included:

  • United Odd Fellow and Rebekah Home. According to the Department of Health, a resident choked to death because the facility lacked adequate staffing. An inspection report from that year concluded that more than half of the staff at United Odd Fellow and Rebekah Home did not know how to perform the Heimlich maneuver.
  • Split Rock Rehab and Health Care. During 2006, this Bronx nursing home allowed a resident to die from lack of oxygen.

All nursing homes that receive more than $10,000 are required by federal law to report any suspicion of crimes against their elderly residents. While there have been reporting problems, the Department of Health and Human Services has vowed to increase enforcement of these federal regulations.

The mandatory reporting requirement, originally a part of the Affordable Care Act, more colloquially known as Obamacare, has two main provisions – both of which carry heftier fines as of November 28, 2017. A violation of these laws can result in a fine of up to $221,000. If the failure to report the suspected crime results in more harm to the resident, the fine increases to $331,000. The assisted living facility will also be fined for retaliating against any employee or resident that reports a suspected crime. The maximum fine allowable for a retaliatory measure is $221,000. Continue reading

A scathing report by the Office of Inspector General shows that 25 percent of nursing home abuse cases go unreported. Of these unreported cases, 80 percent involved an allegation of sexual abuse or rape of an elderly person. The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has promised to do more to identify abuse and neglect, and step up its enforcement whenever it occurs.

missing-patient-300x196According to CBS, this horrific problem has two main causes. First, CMS lacks the procedures and protocols necessary to ensure nursing homes are reporting abuse. Second, in the rare case that a nursing home does run afoul of the law – the fines are so insignificantly small that its cheaper for businesses to just pay the fine, rather than increase staff or the quality of their retirement home. Continue reading

A recent federal and state report excoriated New York’s handling of complaints against nursing homes and nurses in the state.

An audit by the New York found that the state had failed to properly investigate complaints against nurses. For the cases that are deemed “priority 1” – the most serious which usually involve allegations of sexual misconduct or abuse – New York took an average of 228 days to investigate. State law re

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quires these investigations to conclude within 10 days of the complaint. In one horrific case, New York failed to sanction, or otherwise discipline a nurse in any way, after she administered an overdose of insulin that nearly killed a patient. In another case, it took New York almost a year-and-a-half to revoke the nursing license from a Bronx nurse who sexually assaulted a patient.

New York performs even worse when factoring in lower-priority complaints against medical care professionals. With over 8,000 complaints lodged between April 2014 and April 2017, more than 2,000 were not performed within the required 180-day time period.

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The Inspector General for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released a report stating that at least one in four instances of elder abuse or neglect are not reported. While horrific in scope, the results are not entirely surprising – other, smaller samples have found that 15 to 20 percent of elder abuse cases were not reported to the proper authorities or government agencies. The most recent study, released by the HHS Inspector General, based its findings on a large sampling of cases spanning 33 states. The study, which pegged the underreporting rate at exactly 28 percent, was released with a demand that Medicare take “corrective action right away.”

Despite mandatory reporting laws by both the federal government virtually all states, the rathelpe of under-reporting remains stubbornly high. On the federal level, nursing homes are required to report any incidents involving a suspected crime immediately and any other case of suspected elder abuse within 24 hours. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) can fine nursing homes up to $300,000 for failing to comply with the law. While such a strict timeline and the possibility of hefty fines would typically discourage non-compliance, the HHS report shows that the law requiring reporting of any elder abuse – whether physical, financial, sexual or otherwise – is mostly unenforced by CMS.
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As part of President Trump’s promise to roll-back federal regulations, the Trump administration has announced its intention to scrap a federal rule prohibiting nursing homes from requiring their residents to pursue legal claims through arbitration.

In the simplest terms, arbitration is a catch-all term for a dispute-resolution that, while legally binding, does not utilize the court system. The practice has exploded in popularity in recent decades – especially among larger corporations and nursing homes. These entities prefer arbitration because the costs are generally lower, the dispute resolution process moves much faster than the courts, and parties generally do not have a right to appeal thus providing both parties some finality to their dispwalking-out-300x225ute. Opponents of arbitration say the extra-judicial process favors corporate interests and curtails the rights of victims – from limiting discovery to removing the opportunity to appeal. Further, arbitration also removes the right for a person to have their case heard before a jury, and instead substitutes a so-called “neutral arbitrator.”
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With toothless regulations and ineffective oversight, many nursing homes are still failing the neediest patients. With its budget for overseeing nursing homes slashed in half, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has failed to identify failing nursing homes and keep them accountable. As a consequence, some nursing homes are choosing to accept the infrequent fines instead of changing their behavior.

helpCMS is responsible for overseeing all nursing homes that receive benefits from these federal entitlement programs. CMS routinely inspects nursing homes for any violations, if a violation is found, then CMS has two options. First, CMS can put the facility on “special focus” status – reserved for the worst offenders. A nursing home with this designation would be routinely inspected more often and, supposedly, would be punished more severely for any violations. Unfortunately, federal budget cuts have blunted the amount of nursing homes that can be put under “special focus.” Since 2012, the budget for inspecting facilities with this designation has dropped by half. Consequently, despite regulators identifying 435 facilities that warranted this designation, only 88 nursing homes were actually put on the watchlist. Further, once a Continue reading

physical-abuse-300x169A Berkshires caretaker has been charged with elder abuse after an 84-year-old man told hospital staff that his two broken ribs were caused by being “thrown around like a rag doll.” The 52-year-old man, Anthony Marcella II, was arraigned in Central Berkshire District Court on charges of assault and battery on a person over 60 or disabled, witness intimidation, caretaker abuse of an elder, and caretaker abuse of an elder causing serious bodily harm. Marcella has pleaded not-guilty to all charges and was released on a bail.

On May 22 or 23, Marcella was allegedly “rough” when picking up the elderly victim (whose name is not provided) after he fell down. According to court documents, Marcella squeezed him in an aggressive manner and proceeded to throw him around “like a rag doll.” The elderly victim suffered two broken ribs as a result of his caretaker’s abusive treatment. Continue reading

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