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New Bill Would Return Money to Nursing Homes After They Correct Problems

March 19, 2009
by JRosenfeld
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A new bill in the Illinois General Assembly could dramatically change the way nursing homes operate in Illinois. Under Senate Bill 321, proposed by Dan Kotowski (D- Park Ridge, IL), fines imposed against nursing homes for providing poor care and injury could be returned to the facility at the discretion of the Illinois Department of Public Health.

Currently, part of the money collected from fines against Illinois nursing homes is used to provide health monitors who are stationed in troubled nursing homes and used to pay staff members who serve on regional teams to review cases of abuse and preventable death in nursing homes throughout Illinois. Under the new law funding to these programs would be reduced substantially.

Wendy Meltzer, director of the Chicago-based Illinois Citizens for Better Care, claims SB 321 in its current state, "would be really bad public policy. The bill essentially eliminates the financial disincentive for bad behavior." Meltzer called the concept of returning fine money to nursing homes that negligently allow poor nursing home care in their facilities, "morally repugnant."

The bill is opposed by AARP and Illinois Association of Long-Term Care Ombudsmen.

Interestingly, Mr. Kotowski, the bill's sponsor, received $15,000 in recent campaign contributions from the nursing home industry. If passed, Illinois would be the first state to refund nursing home fines according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Jonathan Rosenfeld is a lawyer who represents people injured in nursing homes and long-term care facilities. Visit his personal blog at



Jonathan Rosenfeld...



I tend to look at the role of nursing home fines to be of punitive nature. In most areas, the amount of fines does little to discourage dangerous potentially dangerous behavior as the fines are relatively minimal.

Even struggling nursing homes should have fines imposed if they provide inadequate care or care results in significant injury.

I really do have a problem with returning money to a facility that caused or contributed to a death or injury when they clean up the situation after the fact.

I think this law would provide initiative for facilities who misstep to right their errors by using the returned funds to correct quality concerns.

Do you believe the legislation should have a stipulation that says nursing homes must use the returned funds to address quality issues? Wouldn't that be a much more constructive means of aiding struggling nursing homes, rather than punish them for punishment's sake?