One-Third of Colorado Nursing Home Patients Live in Bankrupt Facilities
One-third of Colorado's "most frail citizens" reside in nursing homes run by bankrupt companies, the Denver Rocky Mountain News reports. In addition, the Justice Department is investigating four companies that run 49 of Colorado's 58 bankrupt facilities -- Vencor, Sun Healthcare, Mariner Post-Acute Network and Integrated Health Services -- for "defrauding Medicare of hundreds of millions of dollars" (Imse, Denver Rocky Mountain News, 10/22). Furthermore, Colorado inspectors "have sought federal sanctions" on 28 facilities, nine of which were in Chapter 11 (Imse, Denver Rocky Mountain News, 10/22). While not all the state's "problem nursing homes" are bankrupt, half of the 58 bankrupt homes have been cited in the last two years for "harming patients," the News reports. Last year, complaints about nursing home care to "a network of ombudsmen" increased by one-third. State ombudsman Virginia Fraser "blamed" facilities' staffing shortages for "many of the problems." Nationwide, 54% of nursing homes "are staffed at dangerously low levels" -- or less than the three hours of nurse and nurse's aide time per patient per day -- the News reports. Fraser said that because of managed care and short hospital stays, individuals entering nursing homes "are much more disabled now," yet "staffing and training has not kept up to handle the sicker patients." In Colorado, Gov. Bill Owens (D) recently assembled a task force to devise solutions to the staffing problem. Are BBA Cuts the Culprit? Most nursing homes believe Medicare cuts stemming from the 1997 Balanced Budget Act "went too far," according to Dr. Paul Long, who runs the federal inspection office that oversees Medicare in the Rocky Mountains. Moreover, payments to nursing homes are rising, despite the fact that a recent GAO report found that current Medicare payments to nursing homes are "fair." The report continued that the string of bankruptcies can be attributed to nursing home chains' "high debt payments" and the use of Medicare's previous payment system to "finance inefficient and unnecessary care delivery." But Jeff Jerebrker, president of Colorado nursing home company Pinon Management, said that Medicare reimbursement is "still too low to be competitive in the labor market" (Imse, Denver Rocky Mountain News, 10/22).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.