Saturday, February 24, 2018
Editorials

Make nursing home owners more accountable

Every nursing home should be legally and financially responsible for what happens to its vulnerable residents. But nursing home owners are too often missing in action. They avoid legal liability by structuring ownership interests in ways so convoluted that it is often impossible to hold anyone accountable. And with that lack of accountability has come deteriorating care. The situation has long been known by government regulators and consumer advocates, but it wasn't until passage of President Barack Obama's health care reform that federal law seriously began to address the issue. The Affordable Care Act forces more transparency on nursing home owners in ways that should help protect Florida's elderly.

Tampa Bay Times staff writer Stephen Nohlgren recently examined one egregious case of a nursing home using elaborately layered ownership to evade lawsuits for abuse and neglect. After 92-year-old Elvira Nunziata died in 2004 when she fell down a stairwell of her Pinellas Park nursing home while tied to her wheelchair, her son sued for wrongful death. Last month, a jury awarded him $200 million. But the defendant in the case and the company that operated Pinellas Park Care and Rehab Center no longer existed by the time the verdict was rendered. Multiple companies that once had either operational or ownership interests also disappeared.

This is not a unique case. For-profit nursing homes play a corporate shell game by slicing themselves into pieces. One limited liability company may own the facility's real estate, another may operate the facility, and another may own some of its assets. A federal investigation found as many as 17 companies involved in a single nursing home. Private equity firms, hedge funds and banks are often at the end of this line. They take money out of nursing homes but claim not to be responsible for operations or levels of care.

The problem is how difficult it is to penetrate this web of companies and hold the real owners accountable. While facilities that take federal funds are already required to report their ownership chains, the information submitted is often too vague and incomplete to be helpful, according to the Government Accountability Office.

That should soon change under the nursing home transparency provisions of the Affordable Care Act. New rules, to be finalized soon, would require exhaustive reporting of nursing home ownership, management and financial connections. All such information would then be disclosed to the public, as well as a range of new details about the way each nursing home operates, including staffing levels and turnover rates. Consumers would be able to check the government's Nursing Home Compare website to identify red flags in quality of care.

Ultimately, tighter rules may be needed to tie the real owners of nursing homes to any wrongdoing committed within their facilities, but requiring full transparency of the owner/operator shell game is a good place to start.

Comments
Editorial: Improve school security plans with gun controls

Editorial: Improve school security plans with gun controls

Gov. Rick Scott and key members of the Florida Legislature offered ambitious proposals Friday that would plug some holes in the state’s safety net, strengthen school security and spend up to a half-billion dollars in response to last week’s massacre ...
Published: 02/23/18
Editorial: Six proposals for reasonable gun control

Editorial: Six proposals for reasonable gun control

Enough is enough. The mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School has renewed conversations about gun control in Washington and Tallahassee. Young people are demanding action, and there are cracks in the National Rifle Association’s solid w...
Published: 02/23/18
Editorial: The time to act on guns is now

Editorial: The time to act on guns is now

The nation’s conversation on guns took an encouraging step this week in three essential places — South Florida, Tallahassee and Washington — as survivors, victims’ families and elected leaders searched painfully and sincerely for common ground after ...
Published: 02/22/18

Editorial: FDLE probe of state fair fiasco falls short

It should go without saying that Florida law frowns upon public officials who take freebies from vendors and whose agency throws business to their family. But that wasn’t enough to move the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to find that the ex-di...
Published: 02/21/18
Updated: 02/23/18
Editorial: They value guns, not kids

Editorial: They value guns, not kids

They value guns over kidsSix days after 17 were killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High by a teen-ager firing an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle, the Florida House refused to even debate a bill banning the sale of assault weapons. The vote, 71 to 36, wasn...
Published: 02/21/18

Editorial: Nursing home rule should be stronger

It shouldn’t take months or another tragedy for Florida — which is hot and full of seniors — to protect its elderly population from heat stroke in the event of an emergency. That’s why Gov. Rick Scott had the right idea last year in calling for nursi...
Published: 02/20/18
Updated: 02/23/18
Editorial: Listen to Marjory Stoneman Douglas students demanding change

Editorial: Listen to Marjory Stoneman Douglas students demanding change

Students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School are traveling to the state capital today and declaring "never again.’’ A prominent Florida Republican fundraiser vows he won’t raise another nickel until his party approves new gun controls. Across F...
Published: 02/19/18

Editorial: No more doubt about Russian meddling in election

The latest indictment by the Justice Department special counsel, Robert Mueller, refutes President Donald Trump’s claims that Russian interference in the 2016 election was a Democratic hoax. The indictment details the lengths Russian conspirators too...
Published: 02/19/18

Another voice: Tips should belong to workers, not their bosses

The Trump administration is under fire for proposing a Labor Department regulation that could result in hotel and restaurant employers dipping into the tips customers leave for their employees, depriving the nation’s 14 million hard-working restauran...
Published: 02/18/18
Updated: 02/20/18
Editorial: Trump’s rising deficits and misplaced priorities

Editorial: Trump’s rising deficits and misplaced priorities

It’s not popular in Washington or virtually anywhere else these days to express concern about the rising federal deficit. Congressional Republicans who used to be deficit hawks first voted to cut taxes by $1.5 trillion over the next decade, then rais...
Published: 02/17/18