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50th Anniversary of Medicare Prompts Federal Government to Revisit Nursing Home Safety Rules

medicareThe federal Medicare program was officially signed into law on July 30, 1965. At that time, only half of those age 65 and older had access to health insurance, and more than a third lived at or below the poverty level. Some 19 million Americans signed up for Medicare during its first year, greatly increasing older and disabled persons’ access to medical care.

In addition to the obvious benefit of enabling seniors and the disabled to seek much-needed medical attention, the enactment of the Medicare program also helped America’s aging population in a less direct way by requiring health care providers who wished to reap the financial benefit of accepting Medicare patients to comply with certain rules and regulations.

As the Medicare program hits the 50-year mark this year, federal officials are now looking towards using Medicare’s “power of the purse” to increase safety in America’s nursing homes. This power has been used since the inception of the program to improve patient access and care in a number of ways, including requiring thousands of hospitals to desegregate in the 1960s in order to be eligible to receive federal funding via Medicare.

Conference on Aging

The nursing home safety proposals, which include measures aimed at strengthening the control of infections, reducing antibiotic and anti-psychotic drug use, and reducing the number of readmissions to hospitals, were unveiled at the recent 2015 White House Conference on Aging in Washington, D.C. Other proposed regulations include rules regarding electronic health records, increased patient and family input into the discharge process, allowing nursing home residents some degree of choice as to their roommates, non-traditional meal options, nurse training in dementia care and prevention of elder abuse, and reporting of staffing levels.

Opponents of the proposed regulations were quick to point out that they did not include a set nursing home patient-to-nurse ratio, which many believe would improve conditions for residents. Many nursing home negligence claims arise from issues relating to understaffing, including claims of dehydration, medication errors, bedsores, falls, and resident-on-resident physical and sexual abuse.

The conference on aging occurs only once per decade, with this being the sixth such conference. Also launched during the event was a new federal website directed at the elderly. The site,, addresses many issues for older Americans, including healthy aging, health issues, long-term care, elder justice, and retirement planning. The elder justice page contains information about financial scams, fraud prevention, housing issues, and elder abuse.

To Get Advice about a Potential Kentucky Nursing Home Lawsuit

If you have a family member whom you believe has suffered abuse, neglect, or mistreatment while living in a Kentucky nursing home, call the law firm of English, Lucas, Priest & Owsley at 270-781-6500 and ask for an appointment as soon as possible. Taking action on your loved one’s behalf can help alleviate his or her suffering and also prevent others from similar harm. Our firm handles nursing home negligence cases throughout Kentucky, including in Bowling Green, Central City, and Russellville.

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