As is the case with so many of our laws, the Elder Justice Act (EJA) of 2010 was designed to protect people from harm. Drafted in response to the growing number of elder abuse cases across the nation, the EJA gave the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) the ability to levy hefty fines against nursing home facilities found guilty of violating health and safety rules.
Sadly, a reversal made by the Trump administration recently has a lot of people wondering about the future safety of many nursing home residents. That's because the Administration is "scaling back the use of fines against nursing homes that harm residents or place them in grave risk of injury," states a CNN Money article
What prompted the decision to make a change?
It'd be difficult to argue that the EJA wasn't working. According to CNN Money, "Since 2013, 6,500 nursing homes - 4 out of every 10 - have been cited at least once for a serious violation," some of which include "failing to protect residents from avoidable accidents, neglect, mistreatment and bedsores."
The president of the American Health Care Association and others like him didn't see this as progress, however. As he stated in a letter to the president prior to the election, the new guidelines focused more on "catching wrongdoing rather than helping nursing homes improve."
What does this mean for the future?
The rollback on the Obama-era regulations is certainly a huge blow to nursing home residents and their families, many of whom rested easier knowing nursing home administrators were being held to higher standards of safety by the state and federal government.
Many elderly advocates are already voicing their disapproval of the Administration's move including Janet Wells, a consultant for California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform, who pointed out that under the EJA, penalties were finally steep enough to grab the industry's attention and deter further wrongdoing.
Now, many are afraid that facilities will see the new, lower penalties as merely a cost of doing business and take no further steps to correct the problem. In such cases, the burden of seeking justice will once again fall on the shoulders of loved ones who will likely seek civil action and higher payouts for their pain and suffering.