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Federal Enforcement Reduced for Dangerous Nursing Homes

When families in Mississippi see their loved ones enter a nursing home, they may be concerned with how they can protect their rights. Recent cases of nursing home neglect and abuse have drawn attention to the unacceptable conditions and treatment that vulnerable seniors may face inside some care facilities. Federal regulations and enforcement are some of the major mechanisms used to police the behavior of nursing homes and protect the people living there. However, the Trump administration has rolled back fines against nursing homes responsible for violations of safety standards.

On average, nursing homes responsible for injured patients or endangered residents paid fines of $41,260 in 2016; in 2019, they face average fines of $28,405. This does not indicate a drop in the severity or extent of incidents, only a different approach to fines from the new administration. Under the Obama administration, violating nursing homes were fined for each day before they rectified the issue; the new policy issues a single fine in 66 percent of cases. Critics warn that dangerous nursing homes have less incentive to promptly address issues under this policy.

On the other hand, the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services says that the changing policies are designed to be fairer and more consistent. At the same time, facilities were given an 18-month period in which they are not required to implement new rules to protect residents' health and safety. It also once again allowed nursing homes to impose forced arbitration clauses in contracts, a practice that had been banned under the Obama administration.

The consequences of nursing home abuse can be severe. Patients may become malnourished, suffer from bedsores or face physical or sexual assault. Families of people being mistreated in a nursing home might speak with an attorney about seeking compensation for their damages.