Nursing home facilities across Texas have received $1.5 billion in federal provider relief funds. Another $1.1 billion was made available from the state to the providers using special QIPP (Quality Incentive Payment Program) funds. The providers also got a Medicaid rate increase of nearly $20 per day since April 2020.
Now members of the State Senate drafted Senate Bill 6 to provide protection to the providers and first responders who may face lawsuits from patients/residents or their families. The bill would require plaintiffs to prove reckless or intentional, willful, or wanton misconduct if they are to bring a lawsuit against a health care provider for care during a declared disaster or pandemic. The bill could become law September 1, but would retroactively apply to lawsuits filed March 13, 2020, or later.
Bad news for victims
There are currently some question about whether Bill 6 is constitutional, but it does not bode well for victims if the law is passed. Critics argue that the bill would no be accountable for administrative policies and such staff actions as abuse or neglect during the pandemic.
According to AARP Texas, 10,000 COVID-related deaths occurred in assisted living facilities and nursing homes. This is nearly a quarter of all deaths tied to the pandemic in the state. The bill would also walk back accountability for bad actors outlined in a previous agreement.
AARP releases statement
“In its current form, Senate Bill 6 is a dangerous proposal, and I am deeply disappointed that the Senate Business & Commerce Committee advanced Wednesday,” AARP Texas Director Tina Tran said. “AARP Texas believes any potential immunity to nursing homes and assisted living providers are counter to the goal of serving residents and families during this difficult time. It is already difficult to gather evidence and support a case against one of these providers, and Texans must retain this right to seek redress should they choose to do so.”
Enough is enough
The end of the pandemic is within sight, so Tran and other critics believe that now is not the time to let nursing homes off the hook for abuse, neglect, and even death. These large healthcare providers have gotten significant help from state and federal officials, so there is no excuse for going further at the expense of victims and their families.