Herald-Leader Editorial

Slimy action on questionable bill; nursing homes aim to restrict lawsuits

Nursing homes aim to restrict lawsuits

February 12, 2013 

Good ideas can withstand criticism. So, when lawmakers move a piece of legislation without hearing from any of its opponents, you have to wonder whether they're sneaking through a stinker.

Such concerns arose last week when the Senate Health and Welfare Committee, chaired by Sen. Julie Denton, R-Louisville, supported imposing a new requirement on one of Kentucky's most vulnerable populations: residents of nursing homes.

Sponsored by Denton, Senate Bill 9 would require possible lawsuits against nursing homes to go through a review panel before going to court.

Only after her committee approved the bill 7-4 did Denton allow opponents of the measure to speak. By then, some committee members had left.

Had they stuck around, they would have heard advocates for patients warn against discouraging nursing home residents and their families from seeking justice for legitimate claims of abuse and neglect.

They also would have been told that the legislature's priority should be protecting nursing home patients, not looking out for the highly profitable investor-owned long-term care companies and their fabulously compensated chief executives.

Denton later explained that some committee members had to dash off to make it to other meetings. But somehow they had time to listen to industry spokesmen before voting.

Denton's snub of the opponents drew a rebuke from Sen. Ray Jones, D-Pikeville, who called it "blatantly wrong."

The nursing home industry claims that it is under siege from frivolous lawsuits drummed up by attorneys advertising for clients and that this legal threat pushes up nursing homes' insurance and legal costs, taking money that otherwise could go into patient care.

If this bill becomes law, nursing home residents would have to jump through a legal hoop that no other class of Kentuckians is required to negotiate, which just seems unfair.

That kind of change deserves real and credible scrutiny, not the greased ride it got out of Denton's committee.

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