Tip-toeing in the right direction Tuesday, the House Civil Practice and Procedure Subcommittee voted in favor of increasing punitive damages nursing home residents and their families can seek to $500,000, up from $300,000. They also added a proviso that would exclude criminal acts from a damage cap.
The bill itself, however, failed to make it out of committee.
The ChooseCare PAC and the nursing home industry certainly had the deck stacked, with pretty much every seat in the house filled by nurses in white coats. There may have been a nurse aide or two in the crowd, but they get paid so poorly I can't imagine too many would be interested in standing in defense of an industry that works them so much and pays them so little.
It's clear that the industry has made this a nurses vs. out-of-state trial lawyers issue, drawing some loose connection between damages paid out by nursing homes and staffing and wages. They've deluded these nurses into thinking, "Hey, if we get sued less, you'll get more help and maybe even get paid more."
What's worse, a serious victim complex seems to have crept into the brains of these nurses who show up to subcommittee meetings en masse--who's taking care of the patients in their absence, by the way, if they're so overworked and understaffed because of frivolous litigation?
"We're being called Nurse Ratchets, we're being called criminals," yelled, literally, yelled registered nurse Marilyn McClain, the industry's pawn, to thunderous applause and righteous anger from the white coats behind. They were admonished about clapping and yelling out in support of each statement made by McClain by subcommittee Chairman Brian Kelsey. Rep. Kent Coleman even asked that the sergeant-at-arms remove the next person who violated decorum.
See, here's the problem with their logic: Texas did the same thing
Tennessee is contemplating, and according to testimony from Daniel
Clayton at the Tennessee Association for Justice, that didn't lead to
increased staffing at nursing homes. In fact, the number of
"deficiencies" in Texas nursing homes went up. The number of hours per
nurse, per patient, went down. Sounds like the damage caps put money
back into the pockets of nursing home corporations, not nurses on the
floors of nursing homes.
Whereas in Florida, where there are no caps, they mandated higher
staffing levels, addressing the root cause rather than bowing to
industry shills who are peddling a bill that would, if Texas is any
bellwether, only hurt the elderly in this state.
The corporations who are looking at our old folks as assets or
commodities are pleading poverty, claiming they spend $4,500 per bed
defending against lawsuits--a number Rep. Jon Lundberg, one of the
bill's sponsors, opened the meeting with. Lundberg is the
representative from Bristol, in whose backyard some pretty egregious
stuff was alleged to have happened at one of National HealthCare
Corp.'s nursing homes. NHC, by the way, is one of the bill's most
The study that produced that $4,500 figure, conducted by AON Global
Risk Consultants on the dime and at the behest of the industry, is not
exactly what you'd call independent or third party. In fact, AON
provides specialty insurance and other services to nursing homes. And
if the costs have gone up, it's because of bad care. Nursing homes are getting
admissions suspended and more than half in this state are rated
below average by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid. If their
liability is high, there's probably a reason.