Complaints against Ventura County nursing homes that rely heavily on Medi-Cal funding have increased nearly twentyfold over the past six years, despite the enactment of a 2004 law designed to improve care at nursing home facilities across the state, the Ventura County Star reports. Medi-Cal is California's Medicaid program.
Complaints in Ventura County
During a 10-month period ending in May, a Ventura County ombudsman program filed 194 complaints with state agencies against nine nursing homes that receive Medi-Cal funding for at least half of their patients.
In comparison, the ombudsman program filed only 10 complaints against nursing homes during the year after the facilities began receiving increased Medi-Cal funding through the Nursing Home Quality Care Act of 2004. The 2004 law provided about $880 million to nursing homes across California.
Greg Johnson, an attorney involved with the complaints against nursing homes, says a primary reason for the increase in complaints is staffing shortages. He noted that about half of his cases during the past 10 years have dealt with facilities where staffing levels did not meet minimum state requirements (Kisken, Ventura County Star, 7/3).
Possible Changes to 2004 Law
In related news, the state Department of Public Health and the Department of Health Care Services announced plans last month to revise the 2004 nursing home law. Under the proposal:
- The state would no longer reimburse nursing homes for some of the legal fees incurred while fighting regulatory penalties;
- The state would no longer provide nursing homes with an 8% bonus on top of labor costs;
- The Department of Public Health would audit facilities to ensure they are following minimum staff requirements;
- The state would cap fees for liability insurance and use the projected savings to fund eldercare ombudsman programs and other services; and
- The state would redistribute certain nursing home funds based on each facility's ability to meet quality standards (Jewett, California Watch/Ventura County Star, 7/3).