Under state and federal laws, nursing homes can only evict patients for a limited set of reasons and are supposed to face serious civil penalties if they break the law to force residents out on the street. However, these same caregivers have very intimate knowledge of the regulatory system and often interpret resident behavior in such a manner that would allow the facility to expel an individual who would otherwise would have remain with the care facility.
While there are many reasons why a nursing home or assisted living facility may choose to evict a resident from their care, one of the all too common reasons may come down to greed as some patients services transition from Medicare to Medicaid. As a result, federal regulators have begun to step up investigation and enforcement actions against unscrupulous facilities who choose the more lucrative yet essentially illegal business practices.
In December 2017, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services sent memos to state nursing home inspectors notifying these departments that federal agencies would begin examining the discharge records from the nation’s 15,000 nursing homes. In 2015 alone there were almost 10,000 complaints filed by nursing home residents alleging they were wrongfully evicted from their facility. However, some elder legal advocates believe these numbers may be underreported because many more elders do not contest their eviction.
Although laws protecting nursing home residents from evictions are generally considered robust enough to help combat the problem, experts believe enforcement efforts have not been up to par to match the issues faced by tens of thousands of vulnerable elders across the country. Often times, when nursing homes are found in violation of federal protections afforded to residents, these facilities are only met with modest fines that allow the illicit practices to continue.
While nursing home regulations clearly state the goal is to avoid discharging residents, facilities often exploit provisions that allow these same nursing homes to evict residents for reasons such as the individual inflicting harm on himself or herself, or otherwise having a behavioral problem. As a result, some nursing homes engage in practices of documenting or otherwise creating patterns of behavior that would make them subject to eviction.
Because reimbursement rates for Medicare and Medicaid differ greatly, many nursing homes turn to these illegal practices to expel residents just as their Medicare coverage expires in order to give beds to other patients who still have their Medicare coverage. Unfortunately, even when residents appeal their evictions and win, there is no guarantee they can return to their facilities as their spots are often quickly given away to others.