Nursing Home Scandal in Eastern KY

What’s behind the push for medical review panels of Kentucky nursing home claims? Are state senators voting for medical review panel bills based on the merits or are they influenced by contributions from nursing home owners?
An unfortunate truth is that there is widespread abuse, neglect, and mistreatment of elderly residents in nursing homes. Based on inspection reports, staffing and quality of care, the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) give long-term care facilities ratings of one to five stars (five being the highest). As of October 1, 2014, Kentucky had 284 nursing homes rated in the database and a third of those had scores of only one or two stars.
Hazard Health & Rehab Center in Perry County, a one-star facility with a spotty record and numerous private malpractice claims against it, is owned by Terry Forcht, a businessman who has given more money to Republican candidates in state elections than anyone else the last eight years.
Mr. Forcht contributes financially to candidates that support a law requiring nursing home malpractice claims to be vetted by ad hoc panels of three “health care providers.” The creation of this detour for people with malpractice claims is backed by the Kentucky long-term care industry, the state Republican Party, many hospitals, medical associations and the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, despite how the adoption of medical review panels has played out in nearby Indiana where some opinions have taken between four and 11 years to be rendered.

Bought & Paid For?

As the 2015 legislative session approaches, medical review panels remain a Republican Party priority, and many of those who will vote on the bill appear on Mr. Forcht’s political expense ledgers. Of the 23 senators who voted for the bill last year, 14—all Republicans—have received a total of at least $61,950 from Terry Forcht. One of the most troubling aspects is that Mr. Forcht’s counterparts at other large long-term health care providers do not give such quantities of cash to state lawmakers.

Money & Neutrality?

Indeed, the chairman of the nonprofit advocacy group Common Cause of Kentucky is concerned that the senators are selling their independence over a problem that is not really a problem – he sees no evidence of frivolousness in the malpractice cases that have been brought thus far — but foresees much damage against the public interest by the connections between the 14 senators and Mr. Forcht. Additionally, requiring claims to be heard by a medical review panel for a nonbinding opinion before proceeding to court delays all claims, not just frivolous ones. There are also concerns about the neutrality of the review panels, since medical professionals will be making decisions about one of their colleagues. Perhaps if the money given to political contributions were spent instead on nursing staff, equipment and patient care in deficient facilities like Hazard Health & Rehab Center, fewer people would need to seek legal solutions and, most importantly, better care would be available for our elderly loved ones. Improving one-star nursing homes should be everyone’s goal. 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, request a free consultation with me by calling 1-855-997-8980 or by filling out our online form.

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