Late Bush Rule Making It Harder to Prove Cases Against Nursing Homes

The Bush administration quietly issued a rule last fall closing off a key source of information about abuse and neglect in nursing homes. The rule, which came to light only recently, is beginning to impede lawsuits brought by families against facilities.

As reported in a column in the Washington Post, the rule designates state nursing home inspectors and Medicare and Medicaid contractors as "federal employees," thus effectively shielding them from providing evidence in private litigation. Litigants in cases must now go to greater lengths, including seeking court orders, to get nursing home inspection reports or depositions from inspections officials.

"This change hurts nursing-home residents and their families by allowing bad practices to be kept in secret by nursing homes and inspectors," Eric M. Carlson, an attorney with the National Senior Citizens Law Center in Los Angeles, told the Post. "Government inspectors have the right to go into nursing homes and investigate, and they learn things that residents and families otherwise could never find out."

Interestingly, the rule is also making it harder for nursing homes to get information on how state inspectors make decisions to penalize, cite or order the shut-down of facilities.

To read the full story by Post columnist Cindy Skrzycki, click here.