Pennsylvania’s Berks-Area politicians have introduced House Bill 1124 in an attempt to strengthen nursing home abuse laws in the state. Lawmakers drafted the bill after federal authorities reported five cases of neglect and abuse to the state’s attorney general last year.
The state’s law does not allow the attorney general’s office to investigate the cases, four of which revolved around nursing home abuse, because the law dictates that only the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit has the authority to investigate neglect in the state.
“Nursing home abuse and neglect is tragically common in America. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, a survey of older Americans in 2000 showed that 44 percent of long-term nursing facility residents had faced some form of abuse or neglect,” states Strom Lawyers.
House Bill 1124 aims to change the state’s law to allow the attorney general’s office to investigate neglect cases in nursing homes. The cases involved and referred by federal authorities had to be passed on to local law enforcement agencies.
State Representative Jim Cox introduced the bill that, if passed, would amend the current law to expand the attorney general’s power. The law would pertain to the statute that deals with neglect for a care-dependent person. The inclusion would allow abuse cases to be prosecuted and investigated by the attorney general.
The state’s Attorney General Josh Shapiro has come out in support of the bill.
Cox is also calling for reporting language to be updated. Nursing homes often do not report abuse cases to the police. Cox is also proposing a penalty against nursing homes that fail to properly alert police of abuse cases.
Federal law imposes fines up to $300,000 for failure to report nursing home abuse. Cox is still mulling over whether or not to amend the bill to include penalties. A co-sponsor of the bill is calling for penalties to be included in state statutes.
The state’s health department has also been cited as having lapses in their reporting. The health department had 1,800 abuse cases between 2009 and 2015, with just three that made it to the desk of the attorney general.
Nursing home abuse in the state is rarely prosecuted, finds Reading Eagle. The review found that only 8 cases of patient-neglect actually led to convictions over the past seven years. Penalties must be imposed, according to lawmakers that want abuse and neglect of nursing home patients to come to an end.
Nursing home abuse is on the rise as the population continues to age. Baby boomers are now hitting 65 or older. Statistics show that the number of Americans 65 or older is at 46 million, with the number expected to jump to 98 million by 2060.
The rise of the percentage of the population going into nursing homes as society lives longer is a key reason for lawmakers to impose fines and enact laws to better protect the aging population.
Cox states that he hopes the bill will have an early vote next year after the bill was tabled last month.