Nursing home lawsuit bill slanted toward industry
Upon reading the recent commentary about Kentucky House Bill 361 by corporate nursing home voice Ruby Jo Lubarsky, I found myself taken aback by the irony in the first line of her piece. In it she states, "Our seniors deserve our greatest respect and the utmost attention to their care."
And while I could not agree more with this statement, she then writes in support of a bill that would do just the opposite.
HB 361 (which won't be taken up this session) is an attempt by the nursing home industry to create roadblocks for families whose loved ones have been abused and neglected. It would create a gauntlet through which victims must pass before being able to exercise their constitutional rights.
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These review panels would not only slow the process but increase the financial burden on already strapped families. All in an effort to reduce nursing homes' accountability and help avoid responsibility for what happens in their facilities.
The nursing home industry would prefer to play games and attempt to vilify attorneys representing these victims, but the fact remains that if they would simply focus on improving the quality of care in their facilities rather than avoiding accountability, the number of lawsuits would drop dramatically.
It's a simple formula. Better care equals fewer lawsuits.
I urge all Kentucky citizens to contact their lawmakers and tell them to stand up for our loved ones living in Kentucky nursing homes and oppose HB 361.
Executve director, Kentucky Justice Association Louisville
I wish to differ with Ruby Jo Lubarsky on the issue of "frivolous lawsuits draining nursing home dollars." If these dollars are saved they would only go into the pockets of the owners and to their lobbyists.
Most of these facilities at present are money funnels. This has become a lucrative business at the expense of our health care system. They cut every corner they can on the proper care of our helpless elders who are unfortunate enough to be with them.
The caregivers are not properly paid for their tremendous workload caused by understaffing. The food in many facilities is inadequate. The medication is frequently not properly provided because many of these facilities own their own pharmacies and cut corners.
My mother was battered in one of these Dickensian institutions. Her bruises were ineffectively concealed with zinc oxide. At that time, in 2003, we could get no recourse.
Money is the only thing of value to most owners in this "industry." Since they "lobby-out" any corrective legislation the only way to get their attention is to hit them where it hurts — in the pocketbook. Let`s not take away our only option.
Kentucky Initiative for Quality Nursing Home Standards has attempted to work with the nursing home industry to improve care for residents. We are disappointed that we had no opportunity for input into the attempt to require review of neglect/abuse cases before they reach the litigation stage.
House Bill 361 is so biased in favor of the nursing home industry that it is clear industry lawyers put it together. It does not provide real protection for the resident or resident's family.
In another state there is a mediation board comprised of five revolving members chosen independently and specifically for each case. These members serve without compensation and have no connection with either the plaintiff or defendant. This example simply demonstrates that more input from other groups might have been helpful.
Nursing home industry spokesman Ruby Jo Lubarsky is clear that the real purpose of HB 361 is to save money and bad publicity for the industry. If advocacy groups had been involved, we might have developed a plan that we, for residents, could support.
As KYIQ has moved among the nursing homes in Kentucky, we have found that where staffing levels are high enough to provide proper care, there are few occasions for those greedy trial lawyers to ply their trade.
There are numerous problems that beset the nursing home industry. The right to a day in court if your loved one has been neglected or abused in a nursing home is not one them.
Vice president, Kentucky Initiative for Quality Nursing Home Standards
Support end of 'r-word'
I write to support House Bill 485 that ends the use of the "r-word" (or "retard(ed)") in Kentucky law.
Kentucky would join Maryland (2009), the federal government (2010), Texas and Pennsylvania (2011) in this effort. Iowa has similar legislation currently pending.
HB 485 presents an opportunity for Kentucky to be among the national leaders to memorialize our commonwealth's interest in treating all its citizens with dignity and respect.
Individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities have long had to confront cultural challenges that are perpetuated by the thoughtless use of antediluvian stereotypical language. The r-word contributes to the dehumanization and isolation of persons with intellectual and development disabilities.
In our professional capacities with Best Buddies, Special Olympics and the Council on Developmental Disabilities, we are fortunate to be part of a community that helps to create an environment of inclusion for Kentucky citizens with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
Enactment of this legislation will further institutionalize a recognition that all people are worthy of respect. HB 485 reflects today's evolved awareness that words matter and can do damage.
We encourage you to visit r-word.org to learn more about the movement and how you can get involved.
State director, Best Buddies Kentucky
Cutting phone cord
Senate Bill 135 would force many Kentuckians back to the tin can and string rather than increasing access to affordable high-speed Internet as the industry claims.
Although AT&T Kentucky President Mary Pat Regan wrote on Feb. 28 that SB 135 "is not about abandonment or discontinuing service," the bill states: "After June 30, 2013, unless otherwise extended by the legislature, an electing utility shall have no obligation to provide service under existing state law."
This means that essential, reasonably priced telephone service could disappear for many rural, elderly and low-income households that depend on it for emergency 911, medical care, jobs, education and family contact.
Kentucky's Public Service Commission would lose the power to investigate service complaints on its own, set standards for service quality and reliability, and ensure the utility furnishes safe, adequate and reasonable service on a non-discriminatory basis.
When the major telephone companies asked to be exempt from "provider of last resort" regulations last November, the Federal Communications Commission declined, noting that these corporations receive state and federal subsidies to cover the costs of basic service and reaching remote areas.
In fact, Kentucky received over $100 million in federal Universal Service dollars in 2010; AT&T received almost $500 million nationwide, while Windstream received over $100 million.
Rather than completely deregulating this essential utility, Kentucky lawmakers should study what deregulation has brought us thus far, and give serious consideration to increasing public oversight of these telecommunication giants so eager to cut our lifeline.