The Public Health Committee in the Oklahoma House of Representatives considered the amended version of the bi-partisan approved Senate Bill 1549 this morning. Just minutes before the committee meeting was scheduled to begin, Representative Cox, the owner of several nursing homes, submitted a committee substitute which stripped out the insurance requirement. The committee members voted 10-9 to consider the committee substitute, falling one vote short of being able to hear the bill in the form already approved by the Senate.
“It is sad that Dr. Cox put his personal financial interest in front of requiring nursing homes be financially responsible,” said Hugh M. Robert, Executive Director of the Oklahoma Center for Consumer and Patient Safety. Robert went on to say “the Oklahoma Senate had overwhelmingly supported the amended bill and Dr. Cox, who purportedly operates his nursing homes without insurance, today showed his personal financial interest is more important to him than protecting his constituents or the citizens of the State of Oklahoma.”
The amended bill would have required nursing home operators to prove they have sufficient assets to cover claims of resident abuse or neglect. If the nursing home operator fails to keep sufficient assets and does not carry liability insurance the officers, directors and shareholders of the nursing home operator would be personally liable to a nursing home resident or their family when someone is abused or neglected.
One reason Dr. Cox as well as the nursing home lobby has cited for not carrying insurance is that the Medicaid reimbursement levels not being high enough to provide the owners with large profits and pay for insurance. However, this does not take into account the private pay residents and if the issue is with reimbursement rates, then Dr. Cox, in his capacity as a representative should work on reimbursement rates, not blocking a resident or family of a resident from holding responsible a nursing home who abuses or neglects a loved one.
If a nursing home resident is neglected or abused they should have a remedy. Robert comments “we require people who drive cars to carry mandatory insurance, why should nursing homes be any different.” “Forcing nursing home operators to show they are financially sound in order to have a license to take care of our elderly citizens just makes common sense, especially with the growing elderly population” Robert says. Most nursing home operators are for profit and carrying liability insurance is a legitimate cost of doing business. A nursing home does not have to choose between providing good care and being financially responsible, they should be required to do both.
About the Oklahoma Center for Consumer and Patient Safety- Please call 800-994-6025 or visit www.okccps.org.