The Covid-19 pandemic has ravaged nursing homes across the United States. Around 40% of Covid-19 deaths in the US are in nursing homes.
Nursing home residents are particularly vulnerable during a respiratory disease pandemic. They are elderly, housed in close proximity, and have underlying conditions that complicate any viral outbreak considerably.
Now, they face an additional challenge- eviction. Many nursing homes are expelling residents, some for breaking rules, others for the sole purpose of cutting costs.
Evictions in L.A. Nursing Homes
There are strict rules in place to prevent infection among nursing home residents in Los Angeles. Visitors are not allowed, and residents are not being permitted to take walks outside.
Unfortunately, some nursing homes are using the pandemic rules as a way to evict residents. If residents take a walk even for a block outside the facility, they are being threatened with eviction. Facilities are even changing door codes to prevent reentry.
The L.A County nursing home and long-term care ombudsman reported receiving 25 to 35 complaints each week for residents saying that they were being held against their will and threatened with eviction. They are allegedly even being prevented from attending doctor’s appointments.
While residents aren’t allowed outside, employees come and go for work every day, and have no restrictions on running their daily errands. This double-standard has troubled some.
Mike Dark, an attorney with the watchdog group California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform, said, “In the absence of consistent and widespread testing of health care workers at these facilities, it is the height of hypocrisy to say that residents must not be readmitted in order to prevent transmission of the virus.”
Eviction for profit?
While there are generally legal safeguards in place to prevent finance-driven evictions, the new coronavirus regulations have created a legal gray area. If residents know of the restrictions before, it might be difficult for them to be reinstated in the nursing home.
There are suspicions that nursing homes are just finding a way to evict Medi-Cal patients, just so they can take in Medicare patients, who offer a higher reimbursement rate.
Nursing homes in California and New York are also evicting residents without informing their families. These residents are old, disabled, and at high risk for contracting coronavirus. Staff members report that the homes are trying to kick out less-profitable residents to create space of COVID-19 patients, who would provide greater revenue. While nursing homes are providing some respite to overburdened hospitals, some are using the pandemic as an opportunity to make a profit.
Evicted residents are being sent to homeless shelters, motels, and hotels which are unsafe and ill-equipped to provide for elderly residents. These evictions might violate federal rules that require a 30 days’ notice period before residents are forced to leave, and that nursing homes must send such residents to safe places.
Nursing homes always had greater monetary incentive to take in Medicare or private insurance patients as opposed to those on Medicaid. Those on Medicare are often there for short-term rehabilitation, while those on Medicaid stay for longer and are poorer.
In 2018, more than 10,000 residents were evicted. Now during the pandemic, the situation has worsened.
Last year, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid changed some of its rules for reimbursement. This meant that it became more profitable to take those who were sick for a short period of time. Patients with Covid-19 patients may bring in around $600 more a day in Medicare dollars than those who had less serious health issues.
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Less Scrutiny of Nursing Homes
Because no visitors are allowed, nursing homes are under less scrutiny and are taking advantage of the situation. Families of residents are not allowed to visit under coronavirus guidelines. But more importantly, ombudsmen were also not allowed for regular inspections, starting in March.
Ombudsmen from 18 states say that 6,400 involuntary discharges to homeless shelters happened between March to June. The Silvercrest Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation in Queens, NY attempted to evict more than 20 residents in March, according to reports.
RC Kendrick, an 88-year-old man with dementia, was moved by the Lakeview Terrace facility to an unlicensed boardinghouse in Van Nuys, California. He was found crumpled up on a sidewalk by Los Angeles police.
“They just dumped him like trash,” his nephew Darryl Kennedy said.
We Can Help
Some senators have called on the Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to act on these reports of eviction and take better care of the country’s vulnerable elderly population in nursing homes.
But this is not enough. Nursing homes must be held accountable for their negligent behavior. If you are worried about your loved one in a nursing home, and suspect any negligence, abuse, or attempts are eviction, you should take action right away.
Our lawyers have a lot of experience with nursing home cases nationwide and are here 24/7 for your assistance. Reach out to us today for a free consultation. We charge no fees until you receive a settlement.