Our seniors deserve our greatest respect and the utmost attention to their care. Every day, Kentucky's long-term care homes strive to treat residents with dignity while meeting their health needs.
However, not everyone has residents' best care in mind. I was reminded of this when reading the opinion piece by Nancy Trentham of the Kentucky Initiative for Quality Nursing Home Standards.
Trentham's intentions might be noble, but I must question the motives of the trial lawyers who are misleading Kentuckians and filing frivolous lawsuits in hopes they can collect massive contingency fees. Our profession is under attack by lawyers whose sole practice is targeting our facilities with incessant advertisements soliciting lawsuits. These advertisements exploit our industry and falsely alarm the public about a supposed failure to provide quality care.
This is simply not the case, as proved by government data showing our facilities provide a higher standard of care than most other states in terms of practices and staffing levels.
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These frivolous lawsuits impede high-quality long-term care and waste precious taxpayer dollars. We implore our legislature to do something about it by passing Rep. Melvin Henley's House Bill 361.
Contrary to what Trentham has written, medical review panels will be fair, reasonable and unbiased. They will not deny or delay residents' access to the courts. But they will help save Kentucky's precious Medicaid dollars.
The majority (65 percent) of the residents we serve are enrolled in Kentucky's Medicaid program. Therefore, our facilities are forced to use precious Medicaid dollars defending frivolous lawsuits and paying for ever-increasing liability insurance premiums.
This dramatic increase in liability insurance cost can be attributed to the fact that whether dismissed, settled, won or lost, frivolous lawsuits cost providers thousands of dollars to defend.
This wastes valuable resources that should be spent providing high-quality, hands-on care for residents. Kentucky's current long-term-care liability system is unsustainable.
HB 361 would protect residents' constitutional rights while helping end the culture of litigation and blame facing our profession. Kentucky should follow the lead of states such as Indiana and create medical review panels to help eliminate frivolous lawsuits, lower insurance costs and allow more of our precious resources to be focused on patient care.
Medical review panels would not deny or delay residents' access to the courts and are not intended to replace the judicial system. This process would have three Kentucky physicians review the evidence of a potential case before it goes to court. To ensure fairness, each side would select a panelist with the third and final panelist being agreed to by the other two physicians. The panel would be charged only with deciding whether the standard of care was violated and would not make a finding of fact or conclusion of law.
The long-term-care industry is critical to the 23,000 Kentuckians who depend on our facilities for a safe and secure place to call home.
Our 30,000 Kentucky employees take pride in their work and the service they provide. That's why we consistently rank above the national average for quality-of-care standards, compliance and staffing.
The problem is clear. We provide a critical service, yet it costs us far more to operate in Kentucky than in most other states. Kentucky ranks among the top four states in long-term-care liability costs. Our facilities pay higher claim amounts and face a higher frequency of lawsuits than most other states. These are the facts.
Our solution is fair and reasonable. Medical review panels will help put a stop to frivolous suits so we can dedicate our resources to our residents instead of lining the pockets of rich trial attorneys.