In the tangled web of laws that govern Medicaid and nursing homes, a trend known as “patient dumping” has become increasingly troubling. The practice is mostly directed at low income patients covered by Medicaid which pays the facility less than those covered by other insurance.
The process known as “patient dumping” begins when the patient requires more care than the facility can give them, either because the facility is understaffed or is not properly equipped to handle them. Patients who have mental or behavioral issues are also targeted. The patient is sent to a hospital for treatment but when released from the hospital, the nursing home won’t readmit them. The patient is told that the nursing home is either now full or the facility can’t handle the responsibility of caring for the patient.
While it seems that government agencies that regulate these facilities would be able to stop these practices, they defend themselves by pointing out that computer systems are not always searchable in a way that would easily find these types of cases. They say that the only way to really find out would be to go through the files of each facility, and they do not have the staff or the budget for that. They also point out the business aspect of the situation, that Medicaid pays too little for the facilities to properly care for some patients.
Federal law requires that residents be given 30 days notice if they want to evict them. But many of these residents may not be capable of understanding an eviction notice. If they don’t have anyone responsible for them, like a spouse or child or a guardian that they or their family has chosen for them, their only advocate is probably an attorney who has been appointed for them. And organizations that try to protect the patients say that these appointed guardians rarely even know that the person has been “dumped.”
While government agencies continue to investigate these practices, families can try to protect themselves and their family members by consulting an estate planning attorney. Many families without a lot of money or assets think there is no reason to look for legal help because they don’t need a will. But even without a will, families can benefit from having a power of attorney or other legal documents that allow them to manage and protect their loved ones from practices like this.
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