Slammed with a New Law and Bigger Fines, Will Illinois’ Nursing Homes Finally Start Providing Enough Care for Residents?

In June 2019, Illinois lawmakers, sparked by a bill sponsored by state Sen. Jacqueline Collins, D-Chicago, passed legislation in support of increasing fines and penalties for nursing homes who are not meeting minimum standards for staffing and also provided $240 million to fill a $649 million projected funding gap between the state and federal government. The Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services will receive $70 million of the newly budgeted state dollars to build-up nurse staffing. The bill also demands better communication between family members of loved ones who reside in nursing homes so they can be informed of staffing challenges that may interrupt or delay the level of care expected.

Several groups and elder organizations supported, endorsed, and pushed the legislation including:

  • AARP Illinois
  • SEIU Healthcare Illinois (Union representing nursing home workers)
  • Illinois Health Care Association

Greg Kelley, SEIU president released a statement saying the move is, “nothing short of historic” as Illinois nursing home workers are “constantly overburdened, exhausted, and stressed trying to care for sometimes up to 30 or 40 residents, if not more, at a single time.”

Nearly a Quarter of Chicago-Area Nursing Homes Are Routinely Understaffed

In 2018, Kaiser Health News and The Chicago Tribune partnered to research and publish accounts of reduced and unsafe nursing home staffing levels in Illinois and related complications such as sepsis, bed sores, falls, and medication mismanagement. The investigative briefing also uncovered Illinois nursing home rankings to be among some of the lowest in the country. Even though the state requires 2.5 hours of direct care for residents each day, about a quarter of the residents in Chicago-area facilities are living in understaffed conditions putting them at risk for abuse and neglect.

The investigative reporting likely prompted lawmakers to introduce the new legislation that will:

  • Require state regulators to obtain detailed Medicaid payroll data
  • Have access to a resident and patient data system
  • Calculate whether the home met the care standard each quarter
  • Violators will have to publicize any state staffing violations via:
    • facility websites
    • main lobbies
    • registration desks
    • at every public entryway to the facility
  • Require informed consent from either a patient or their guardian before psychotropic drugs can be administered

The governor has said he is in support of signing the legislation, along with the funding boosts to help Illinois’ poorly performing Medicaid reimbursement rate.

Regulators will then have to prepare the new rules and begin issuing fines to Illinois violators by 2021.

As nursing home abuse and neglect attorneys committed to protecting the health and safety of residents and staff, we are always happy to hear of policies and funding to support a better system of care. While the new law and money may be significant moves in the right direction, doubling the fines of deficient nursing homes and adding a few more nurses may not be enough to deter continuous bad behaviors and poor management, especially by owners who choose to routinely understaff in hopes to fatten their own pockets.

Levin & Perconti: Chicago’s Legal Voice for Victims of Nursing Home Abuse & Neglect 

If someone you love has been the victim of abuse or neglect in a nursing home, rehabilitation center, or other long or short-term care facility, the nursing home abuse and neglect attorneys of Levin & Perconti want to help you. Our attorneys have nearly 30 years of experience successfully bringing nursing homes to task for failing victims and their families, good people who rely on these facilities to care them.

Please, contact us now for a FREE consultation at 312-332-2872 in Chicago, toll-free at 1-877-374-1417, or by completing our online case evaluation form. 

Also read: What Are The Worst Nursing Homes In Illinois?