LAS CRUCES, N.M., July 12, 2017 /PRNewswire/ -- As debates rage over the future of health care in America, a new book claims that the government's current system for overseeing nursing homes allows unhealthy nursing home conditions to persist or recur year after year.
"The oversight system has blind spots," said retired journalist and certified internal auditor William J. Beerman, Sr., who has just released a 380-page book entitled "Mary Regina's nursing home."
"Sometimes nursing home inspectors see the violations. Sometimes they don't," Beerman said.
For example, he said, confidential witnesses in lawsuits ongoing in 2017 reported that it was not unusual for nursing homes to cover up deficiencies after they somehow found out in advance that inspectors were coming for "unannounced" inspections. "Some nursing homes bring in extra staff before 'surprise' inspections and scramble to conceal violations. Inspectors don't always see how residents normally live," said Beerman.
Beerman spent 20 days at his mother's bedside in a nursing home. He was disappointed by the way the state health department handled his complaints about the care she received. After her death in 2011, Beerman began researching how nursing homes are regulated. His book is named for his mother, Mary Regina.
Beerman's research covered lawsuits filed against nursing home chains by attorneys general in New Mexico and Pennsylvania, and audits by Pennsylvania auditors general and the U. S. Government Accountability Office. The lawsuits encompassed 65 nursing homes and more than a million patient-days of nursing home care.
"Enforcement fluctuates wildly," Beerman said. "In one state, under one governor, the health department took 171 enforcement actions against nursing homes in 2003, but in 2012, under the next governor, it took only two." In 2015, the enforcement number was 52. Nationally, consumer complaints rose 21 percent from 2005-2014 while citations went down 41 percent, Beerman said. Fines in the U.S. were down 10 percent from 2015-2016.
Nursing homes are rated on a scale of one to five stars, with many above average (three stars) and many below. Beerman said he was surprised to discover that the Medicare.gov Five-Star rating system does not incorporate evaluations from nursing home residents.
An outline of the book, including a list of notable issues covered, is posted on Beerman's website, https://www.wbeerman.com
The book was published July 9 on Amazon.com.
SOURCE William J. Beerman, Sr.