Thanks to modern medicine, average U.S. life expectancy has increased to a record high of 78.8 years. For many, that encouraging statistic will be tempered by questionable experiences with healthcare’s most hit-or-miss service – nursing homes. Here in Kentucky, the news is most discouraging. The U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) reports that the Bluegrass State has more nursing homes with serious deficiencies than any other state in the nation over the last three years. Out of the 289 nursing homes within our borders, 98 of them have been fined a total of $11.2 million in penalties for these deficiencies. And our very own Signature Healthcare of Pikeville ranked as the second worst facility statewide, with 18 serious deficiencies and 39 total.
In fact, the Hurstbourne Care Center at Stony Brook was shut down this year by federal officials because of filthy, unsanitary and dangerous conditions. Thus, it would seem as though this might not be the best climate in which to ask for less oversight. Yet, this is exactly what the state’s nursing homes are seeking. Kentucky nursing home representatives claim the industry is excessively regulated and that inspectors are more likely to cite “immediate jeopardy” violations than regulators in other states.
An immediate jeopardy violation, by definition, is one that causes harm, serious injury or death, or is likely to do so, and carries fines of up to $10,000 a day.
The industry’s assertions about excessive regulation have been directly challenged by the inspector general for the Cabinet for Health and Family Services, who is the state’s top nursing home inspection official. The inspector general claims that the final call on a violation’s severity and how much to fine the facility is made by CMS, not Kentucky inspectors. Furthermore, the inspector suggests that Kentucky’s seemingly high number of immediate jeopardy violations may be skewed by the fact that some troubled homes rack up multiple or repeated citations.
At 42 percent, Kentucky has the largest percentage among the eight states in the CMS Atlanta region of facilities that rank below average in the CMS rating system. It seems obvious that deregulation is less important to the 23,000 state residents in long-term care than improving one-star nursing homes and providing our elderly with better healthcare. If you believe that your loved one has suffered an injury or a decline in their condition due to the care they have received at their nursing home, or if you have any questions about this topic, you can find out more by discussing it with the Pikeville, KY-based Johnson Law Firm
. Contact us by calling 606-437-4488 or filling out our online form.