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