A very important law in California is silently under attack, and no one knows. It is a law that was designed to protect vulnerable elders and disabled adults.
In 1991 the California Legislature declared that elderly and dependent adults were at a greater risk of abuse, neglect or abandonment, and that California had a responsibility to protect these vulnerable individuals. In an effort to protect those individuals, California enacted the Elder Abuse and Dependent Adult Civil Protection Act (“EADACPA”) in order to make it financially feasible for civil cases to be brought to prove fraudulent and bad acts of nursing home operators that were harming vulnerable people. Facts discovered and developed in these civil cases have been used by public prosecutors to recover millions in fines for billing fraud against large corporate operators of nursing homes. (See, e.g., “Life Care Centers of America Inc. Agrees to Pay $145 Million…” https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/life-care-centers-america-inc-agrees-pay-145-million-resolve-false-claims-act-allegations; “Nursing Home Operator to Pay $48 Million…”https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/nursing-home-operator-pay-48-million-resolve-allegations-six-california-facilities-billed.)
Within the next week, proposed federal legislation known as the “Protecting Access to Care Act of 2017,” (H.R. 1215 –https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/1215/text) is likely to be discussed on the floor of the House of Representatives, having made it through committee, and if approved, will go to the Senate floor next week. The proposed legislation puts financial caps on all medical negligence cases in the United States. California has had a cap in place on medical malpractice cases for 40 years. Unfortunately for patients, that cap has done little, if anything, to fix healthcare in California.
Regardless, hidden within H.R. 1215 is language that will expand not just the damage caps nationwide, but will gut elder abuse litigation across the United States. Included in the “Definitions” section of H.R. 1215 it is made clear that nursing homes and any claims made against them will be covered under this new law and cap. Elder Abuse cases will no longer be economically feasible under this new law. Elder Abuse cases against large corporate chains are notoriously expensive, and it typically costs hundreds of thousands of dollars to prove those large operators are committing fraud. Every case is a ‘David versus Goliath’ battle, and H.R. 1215 takes away our sling.
Should H.R. 1215 pass and be turned into law, cases where elderly and disabled adults suffered substantial injuries and heartbreaking deaths will no longer be feasible. Examples include:
– A nursing home illegally “dumps” a blind and oxygen-dependent resident at a motel with a package of ramen noodles and a non-functioning oxygen tank. Within three days he is dead from a lack of oxygen.
– An 88-year-old stroke sufferer is raped by nursing home worker and contracts genital herpes https://www.cnn.com/interactive/2017/02/health/nursing-home-sex-abuse-investigation/
– An 80-year-old unattended dementia patient walked out of a locked dementia unit, down multiple streets and parking lots before she was struck at 35 miles per hour by a truck and died as the result of blunt force trauma.
Enactment of H.R. 1215 as currently written, with the inclusion of nursing homes, will leave America’s elderly and disabled population susceptible to increasing abuse, neglect, assault and rape with no recourse. Abusive and neglectful nursing homes will be left to operate without fear of reprisal or liability and will have no financial incentive to provide adequate care. Any speculative fiscal savings promised by H.R. 1215 will be greatly outweighed by the increase in government costs as well as our absolute duty to protect the vulnerable and infirm.
For all these reasons, we ask you to contact your representatives and tell them you stand on the side of the elderly and disabled, and that you demand they vote against H.R. 1215.
Find your congressperson here, https://www.house.gov/representatives/find/, and contact Senator Kamala Harris at (202) 224-3553, and Senator Diane Feinstein at (202) 224-3841. Call today and let your voice be heard!