Friday, September 30, 2016

How nursing homes used staff and patients for amendment campaign

Posted By on Fri, Sep 30, 2016 at 7:32 AM

click to enlarge QUESTIONS RAISED: About signature gathering in nursing homes for amendment to make it hard to sue nursing nomes.
  • QUESTIONS RAISED: About signature gathering in nursing homes for amendment to make it hard to sue nursing nomes.
Marci Manley did some fine reporting for KARK last night on how the nursing home industry in Arkansas used staff to round up signatures  from patient/residents for the amendment to limit lawsuits against nursing homes.

Nursing home residents can and should participate in the political process. But as one relative of a signer attests, some of them are past the point of making informed decisions.  I couldn't help but think of my own mother, in the final stages of her dementia. She couldn't figure out the one-digit phone call system I'd set up so she could reach me. Some days, she thought she was trapped in a Cities Service oil refinery and would ram her wheelchair into a locked door to try to break free. She hadn't been judged incompetent in court, but able to knowledgeably sign a petition? No. You'll hear a similar tale in the KARK report.

KARK found, too, some discrepancies in signatures and questions about whether the "volunteer" canvassers (paid employees of the nursing homes) had actually witnessed signatures.

It's past time to do much with this in terms of legal challenges. Those are underway. A special master has found flaws in the compliance with the onerous new law passed by the legislature to discourage paid canvassing campaigns. A challenge to the gross inadequacy of the description of the amendment also pends. Does the ballot title mention that it effectively ends jury trials to address wrongs like abuse, neglect and malpractice? It does not.

But the publicity at least exposes how the nursing home industry operates. That they style their amendment a way to improve access to health care is the most dishonest formulation of a campaign season that has been long on dishonesty.  Does our Republican attorney general — busy suing against the public interest all over the country — have a care about this? Doesn't sound like it, though it has a division that once focused on nursing homes as well as a consumer protection division. Oh, but, nursing home magnate Michael Morton gave Attorney General Leslie Rutledge $92,000 for her campaign.

The amendment is meant to insulate nursing nomes from lawsuits by setting a cap as low as $250,000 for fatal abuse of an elderly person. It also limits attorney contingency fees, to further discourage lawsuits.

Here's the video report.

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