The United States Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) recently audited a large number of Medicare records across 33 states. On Monday, August 28th, DHHS' inspector general issued an "early alert" warning aimed at Medicare. They'd discovered that at least 25 percent of all cases of physical or sexual abuse that were occurring in nursing homes was not being reported to police as required under federal law.
In their brief, DHHS noted that more than one and a half million Americans live in nursing homes throughout the country. Of those 2015 and 2016 cases they've audited thus far, they've found at least 134 instances in which emergency room records have indicated abuse. Among those, they noted that at least 28 percent of those records didn't indicate that law enforcement had been notified about the suspected abuse.
Federal statutes requiring healthcare providers or nursing homes to report suspected cases of sexual or physical abuse were first enacted five years ago. It requires all nursing homes to report all serious injuries within two hours of it occurring. In cases of more minor ones, a 24 hour notification is required.
DHHS says that Medicare, the agency responsible for enforcing the law, has failed to do just that. Each unreported incident can carry a fine of as much as $300,000.
Since that DHHS announcement has been made, Medicare investigators have reportedly initiated their own investigations into the claims. They've since confirmed that at least 38 cases of nursing home abuse went unreported to federal officials. At least 80 percent of those cases involved a nursing home resident being sexually abused or assaulted.
They also note that, among the 96 cases they were able to verify were reported to the appropriate authorities, it was unclear if that notification happened immediately as required by federal law.
As more Americans are living longer, the amount of residents living in nursing homes is expected to increase, which has the potential to lead to more instances of abuse or neglect. If you have a love one that you suspect has been physically or emotionally harmed at an Arizona nursing home, then a Tucson nursing home abuse and neglect attorney who can advise you of your rights to file a lawsuit in your case.
Source: ABC News, "Abuse in nursing homes unreported despite law," Ricardo Alonso-Saldivar, Aug. 28, 2017