Nursing Homes Agree To Revise Admission Policies

Attorney General Spitzer today announced a landmark agreement that will help simplify and clarify nursing home admission policies.

The agreement with nine prominent nursing homes across the state significantly changes the homes' admission contracts in two key ways: First, the agreement eliminates so-called "third-party guarantees" that impose financial obligations on families as a condition of admission. Second, the agreement protects against involuntary discharges of residents.

"This agreement addresses two sources of confusion and dismay for nursing home residents and their families," Spitzer said. "It will help build trust and confidence in nursing homes."

The Attorney General's Health Care Bureau, working with the New York State Office for the Aging Ombudsman Program, surveyed nursing home admission contracts and found that many contained inaccurate, misleading and, in some cases, illegal language requiring third-party guarantees. The contracts also stipulated arbitrary grounds for discharging residents.

State and federal laws, however, prohibit homes from requiring third-party guarantees as a condition of admission. Specifically, a nursing home cannot require friends or relatives to sign an admission agreement that makes them liable for payment for a prospective resident's care as a pre-condition for admission to the home.

State and federal laws also limits the ability of nursing homes to discharge residents involuntarily. The homes can only discharge residents for narrowly-defined reasons, including behavior that is deemed dangerous to other residents.

The Attorney General's Health Care Bureau determined that certain admission contracts gave the nursing home overly broad discretion in both areas. The bureau did not, however, find clear evidence that the homes had improperly collected funds from third parties, or had improperly discharged any residents. The bureau is continuing a broad review of the matter.

Faith Fish, Director of the New York State Long Term Care Ombudsman Program, said,
"I commend the Attorney General's efforts to work collaboratively with this Office and other state partners to ensure quality of care by making sure admissions policies accurately state the rights of consumers regarding third-party guarantees and involuntary discharges."

Cynthia Rudder, Director of the Nursing Home Community Coalition of New York State, said: "We are very pleased about the Attorney General's action. Admission is a very stressful time for families and they often feel they have to sign anything the home gives them, even if they feel the agreement illegally forces them to accept financial responsibility or seems to allow the home to discharge the resident for reasons not allowed under state or federal law."

The nine nursing homes signing agreements with the Attorney General are:

Chenango Memorial Hospital Nursing Home in Norwich;
Cliffside Nursing Home in Flushing;
Hollis Park Manor Nursing Home in Hillside;
Meadow Park Rehabilitation & Health Care Center in Flushing;
Nazareth Home of the Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate Conception in Buffalo;
Silver Lake Nursing Home, Inc., d/b/a Silver Lake Specialized Care Center in Staten Island;
Sunrise Manor Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation in Bay Shore;
Valley View Manor Nursing Home in Norwich; and
Woodcrest Nursing Home in Flushing.

Under the terms of the agreement, the nine nursing homes have agreed to revise their admission contracts to include language that complies with state and federal law, to notify all residents of the changes, and to have residents sign new contracts.

The investigation was handled by Troy Oechsner, Albany Section Chief, Health Care Bureau, and Assistant Attorney General John Powell. Consumers and providers with questions or concerns about health care matters can call the Attorney General's Health Care Bureau at 1-800-771-7755.


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