According to the Associated Press, more than 1 in 4 cases of possible sexual and physical abuse against nursing home patients apparently went unreported to police, says a government audit that faults Medicare for failing to enforce a federal law requiring immediate notification.
The Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services issued an “early alert” on its findings from a large sampling of cases in 33 states. Investigators say Medicare needs to take corrective action right away.
“We hope that we can stop this from happening to anybody else,” said Curtis Roy, an audit manager with the inspector general’s office, which investigates fraud, waste and abuse in the health care system. The audit is part of a larger ongoing probe, and additional findings are expected, he said.
With some 1.4 million people living in U.S. nursing homes, quality is an ongoing concern. Despite greater awareness, egregious incidents still occur.
Auditors from the inspector general’s office identified 134 cases in which hospital emergency room records indicated possible sexual or physical abuse, or neglect, of nursing home residents. The incidents spanned a two-year period from 2015-2016.
Illinois had the largest number of incidents overall, with 17. It was followed by Michigan (13), Texas (9), and California (8). Indiana was 11th in the 33 state sample with 4 incidents. However, just one incident is too many.
The news was already bad for Indiana.
As the Northwest Indiana Times reported earlier this year, “Indiana ranks worst in nation for long-term care” for seniors and people with disabilities. Those findings were part of the Long-Term Services & Supports Scorecard, conducted in part by AARP earlier this year (2017).
The AP report continued. In 38 of the total cases (28 percent), investigators could find no evidence in hospital records that the incident had been reported to local law enforcement, despite a federal law requiring prompt reporting by nursing homes, as well as similar state and local requirements.
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