Years of Inadequate Funding and a Lack of Protection from Out-of-State Law Firms Risks the Lives of Seniors
HARRISBURG — As Gov. Tom Wolf and the General Assembly prepare to engage in a new round of discussions concerning the proposed 2018-19 fiscal year budget, a lack of support for quality care continues to jeopardize the lives of Pennsylvania’ the seniors and residents requiring skilled nursing care.
PHCA President and CEO Russ McDaid noted his concerns on behalf of Pennsylvania’s at-risk elderly population and vulnerable residents while taping a segment for a statewide public affairs TV program that begins airing this weekend.
“This budget marks the fourth time in Governor Wolf’s first four years in office in which the Commonwealth is providing no additional Medicaid funding for nursing facility care,” said McDaid. “It is time to make good on the promise Pennsylvania made to its oldest and frailest citizens to care for them when they are unable to care for themselves, and that begins with the FY 18-19 budget. That begins now!”
Individuals 85 and older represent the fastest growing population in the Commonwealth. Complicating matters, many older residents increasingly need intensive around-the-clock care — the type of care which is most safely and cost-effectively provided in nursing facilities.
McDaid was quick to point out that the growth of this segment of the population is not going to ease up in the near future.
“Quite simply, our senior population is going to continue to grow,” McDaid said. “The care required by residents is going to remain intensive. Without appropriate funding, the risk to our seniors is going to increase — a lack of support for quality care will continue to jeopardize the lives of our loved ones.”
During the first four years of Gov. Wolf’s administration, many essential services have seen substantial increases in their budgets. For example, correctional institutions have seen a 10 percent boost — including a 3.6 percent increase proposed in the 2018-19 proposed budget and an 18 percent increase in inmate medical care — at a time when the Wolf administration is touting a reduction in the number of inmates.
Skilled nursing facilities seek the same level of commitment from Gov. Wolf currently being provided to other services aimed at Pennsylvania’s vulnerable populations. Education, for instance, has seen year-over-year increases in funding since the Governor took office. Like the state’s children, seniors and those requiring 24-hour medical care also deserve and require significant support.
“No one in their right mind wants to live in or visit a loved one in a skilled nursing facility in which care is lacking or substandard; staff is either unequipped, unprepared or nonexistent; and walls are crumbling down,” said McDaid. “But I can promise you that nightmare scenario is going to become all too common in Pennsylvania if the state does not invest in this type of care immediately.”
McDaid also noted that outside of adequate funding, one of the single biggest threats to senior and skilled nursing care is out-of-state law firms filing frivolous lawsuits for huge cash settlements.
Since 2011, nursing facilities across Pennsylvania have been under attack. More than 150 full-page newspaper advertisements have been purchased by these predatory, out-of-state firms trolling for people and facilities to prey upon.
Pennsylvania’s Medicaid program spent more than $104 million on liability-related costs in 2015, creating what amounts to a devastating “Tort Tax” on the facilities that care senior residents. Most of the taxpayer dollars lost to this “Tort Tax” go to pay contingency fees to out-of-state firms who are taking advantage of the state’s lax tort laws.
House Bill 1037, introduced by State Representative Warren Kampf, will end the “Tort Tax” by limiting punitive damages against long-term care provides to 250 percent of the amount of compensatory damages for skilled nursing facilities, assisted living residences and personal care homes. The bill will provide skilled nursing facilities with the same level of protection physicians have had in Pennsylvania for the last 15 years.
This legislation does not limit compensatory damages for individuals who may have been harmed, which can be significant and includes compensation for pain and suffering in Pennsylvania, which is often a significant award for the individual.
“We need the House to make seniors a priority during this legislative session and advance legislation that boldly sends the message that money set aside for the care of our loved ones is not up for grabs to law firms that seek to prey upon them,” said McDaid “Skilled nursing facilities need the kind of protections outlined in HB 1037 — which are on par with those we currently provide to other care providers.”
The public can learn more about HB 1037 or ask their lawmakers to support this legislation by visiting www.EndLawsuitAbuseinPa.com.
“Pennsylvania Newsmakers” is one of the state’s premier politics and public policy television talk shows. The show is available at www.phca.org and will air regionally:
- WGAL Channel 8 (Harrisburg and Lancaster) Sunday, February 18 at 11:30 AM
- WBPH (Lehigh Valley and Philadelphia) Monday, February 19 at 8:30 PM
- WKBS 47 (Altoona) Saturday, February 24 at 9:30 AM
- WPCB 40 (Pittsburgh) Saturday, February 24 at 9:30 AM
- MeTV (Susquehanna Valley) Sunday, February 18 at 11:30 PM