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| Burns, Cunningham & Mackey, P.C.

The Huffington Post recently reported that government investigators have determined Medicare paid billions in taxpayer dollars to nursing homes that were not meeting basic requirements for their patients. The Department of Health and Human Services' inspector general’s report concluded that Medicare paid about $5.1 billion for patients to stay in skilled nursing facilities that failed to meet federal quality of care rules in 2009. The report discloses dangerous and neglectful conditions.

Nursing homes are required to prepare care plans that are individualized for each patient. That care plan is required by the federal regulations to help residents reach the highest possible levels of physical, mental and psychological well-being. The report found that one out of every three times patients wound up in nursing homes in 2009 which failed to follow basic care requirements laid out by the federal agency that administers Medicare. In fact, Brian Cook a Medicare spokesman stated "Medicare has made significant changes to the way we pay providers thanks to the health care law, to reward better quality care. We are taking steps to make sure these facilities have the resources to improve the quality of their care, and make sure Medicare is paying for the quality of care that beneficiaries are entitled to."

The Office of Inspector General's report was based on medical records from 190 patient visits to nursing homes in 42 states, represents some 1.1 million patient visits and lasted at least three weeks. It does not reveal the names of the nursing home so we do not know if any of the nursing homes were in Alabama. That sample represents about 1.1 million patient visits to nursing homes nationwide in 2009, the most recent year for which data was available, according to the review.

I recently wrote a post about ombudsman and their value to families seeking nursing homes for loved ones. The federal government also has a website where consumers can review nursing homes. Another source to learn how to choose a nursing home The National consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care in Washington, DC. This organization has publications available as well as other resources to assist consumers.

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