Emmett Reed: A responsible remedy to help nursing homes and their residents

We all want our loved ones to get the very best care when they no longer can live on their own and instead need the care that only a nursing home can provide.

This year, Florida has the opportunity to pass legislation that helps accomplish just that. The Legislature is considering a bill that would protect resources needed for resident care by making responsible reforms to rules involving nursing-home lawsuits.

An independent study shows that nursing home claims and liability costs are on the rise, costing facilities an estimated $5,400 per bed this year. Combine that with Medicaid underfunding nursing-home care by nearly $500,000 per facility each year, and it’s even more important for the Legislature to reform this broken system.

Providing quality, complex care requires resources. Residents are far better off when facilities have enough resources to provide important services or improve quality of life.

This legislation is the result of an historic agreement reached by nursing homes, trial attorneys and AARP. Under the legislation, nursing homes would still be held accountable — and penalized — if they provide substandard care. Nursing-home residents would still be able to pursue lawsuits against those directly at fault, but with reasonable limits on who could be sued.

Sponsored by Sen. John Thrasher and Rep. Matt Gaetz, the proposal would:

  •  Ensure that residents can pursue lawsuits against those directly at fault, while preventing claims against those who have nothing to do with daily care decisions, such as banks or creditors. It’s important to note that if the role of those uninvolved players shifts and they begin making decisions about things like staffing, budgets, policies and procedures, the legislation is clear that they can be held liable.
  •  Ensure that a punitive damage claim is based on evidence, not hearsay, and is driven by the merits of the case.
  •  Establish a workable framework for providing appropriate medical records to family members.
  •  Ensure that legitimate awards are paid by revoking the license of any nursing-home operator who doesn’t pay a final judgment, arbitration award or settlement. It also prevents the operator from transferring that license to any related party during the judgment process.

Unfortunately, the so-called “Families for Better Care” organization continues to fight the legislation and chronically misrepresents the facts about the tremendous strides nursing homes continue to make in quality care. Instead of joining the effort to forge an agreement, the group instead shamefully works to scare seniors.

Try as they might to tarnish the reputation of Florida’s nursing homes and thousands of caregivers, the facts tell a different story.

Florida ranks second in the nation in the number of five-star rated nursing facilities, according to U.S. News & World Report. Facilities continue to staff well above the national average, with individuals receiving more time with nurses on a daily basis. Customer satisfaction remains high and facilities are focused on providing a more person-centered experience.

Of course, that doesn’t mean Florida’s nursing homes can be complacent. We’re always looking to improve. When a nursing home falls short, it should be held accountable. That doesn’t change under this proposal.

This legislation is about protecting the quality of care at nursing homes without sacrificing accountability. It properly safeguards the interests of nursing-home residents, while allowing Florida’s many outstanding facilities to continue providing a high level of care without fear of excessive litigation.

With this legislation, we can all move forward toward better care for those most in need of our services. Our loved ones deserve no less.

Emmett Reed is Executive Director of Florida Health Care Association, the state’s first and largest advocacy organization for long term care providers and the residents under their care. He can be reached at [email protected]. Column courtesy of Context Florida.

Guest Author


Florida Politics is a statewide, new media platform covering campaigns, elections, government, policy, and lobbying in Florida. This platform and all of its content are owned by Extensive Enterprises Media.

Publisher: Peter Schorsch @PeterSchorschFL

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Drew Dixon, Roseanne Dunkelberger, A.G. Gancarski, Anne Geggis, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Cole Pepper, Gray Rohrer, Jesse Scheckner, Christine Sexton, Drew Wilson, and Mike Wright.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @PeterSchorschFL
Phone: (727) 642-3162
Address: 204 37th Avenue North #182
St. Petersburg, Florida 33704

Sign up for Sunburn