200,000 Lives Lost
Since the beginning of the pandemic, more than 200,000 staff and residents of long-term care facilities have died from COVID-19. CMS data shows only 43% of staff and 57% of residents are up to date on their vaccines.
Dire conditions inside for‑profit nursing home chains caused deadly, early-pandemic conditions inside facilities. The Congressional report discovered that nursing homes were carelessly understaffed. the unsafe staffing made bad conditions worse leading to “deficient care, neglect, and negative health outcomes.”
The Subcommittee of the Coronavirus Crisis launched an investigation that led to today’s report. The report concentrates on the nation’s five largest for-profit nursing home companies: Genesis HealthCare; Life Care Centers of America; Ensign Group; SavaSeniorCare; and Consulate Health Care. However, the report really applies to the profitable industry as a whole.
According to the report, corporate managers at the nation’s largest for-profit chains intentionally kept staffing low at unsafe levels. Experts testified of the troubling business practices by for-profit nursing homes including intentional understaffing, low pay and lack of paid leave contributed to the severity of the COVID crisis. Further, they did not supply their workers with adequate personal protective equipment despite taxpayer funds paying for PPE.
Nursing homes even “pressured staff to continue working despite having symptoms of or testing positive for the coronavirus — endangering nursing home residents and other staff.”
“I understand the building needs to save money, but I feel we are being over worked and taken advantage of so administration can save money and look good to corporate,” investigators quoted one employee as saying in a section addressing “corporate greed.”
Such horrific incidents “highlighted a pattern of nursing home management threatening to fire or retaliate against” employees that called in sick, the report said.
Profits over People
Private equity’s investment in nursing homes ballooned from $5 billion in 2000 to more than $100 billion in 2018. Wall Street private equity firms own 5% of all nursing homes. The Government Accountability Office began a separate investigation into private equity investments in the nursing home industry.
“Convoluted corporate structures may serve to shield nursing home chains from close scrutiny by the public, including residents and their family members.”
For example, Genesis Healthcare was comprised of over 700 discrete corporate entities as of June 2020. These “related entities” act as service providers to others within the chain structure.
The subcommittee included a complex drawing between a building and its corporate owner. The complex maze shows how difficult it can be to understand operations or follow the siphoning of taxpayer money.
“Convoluted corporate structures” allow companies to “obscure profits and avoid accountability.” Shameful.