Low-income people are getting evicted from nursing homes

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Nursing homes and residential care facilities are incredibly important resources for elderly and disabled people who may need daily care. Sadly, these services aren't free or even particularly affordable. According to a report from NBC News, many low-income residents are being wrongfully — and in some cases, illegally — evicted from care facilities in order to make way for more profitable patients.

These cases of early, unexpected and occasionally illegal discharges have been on the rise in recent years. According to the National Long-Term Care Ombudsmen Resource Center, a group that advocates for residents of nursing homes, there were more than 10,600 complaints about discharges and transfers filed in 2017 — up by about 1,500 more than occurred in 2015. That is only from people who sought out support and attempted to file a grievance with the organization. Many simply accept being pushed out of the care centers because they are unaware of the fact that they have resources available to them. Those who suffer from the wrongful and untimely evictions are often low-income patients who require extended stays at the facilities, according to data gathered by the Department of Health and Human Services.

At the core of this issue is often who is paying for the person's stay at the care facility. Many nursing homes want to house people receiving assistance from Medicare, rather than those who are on Medicaid. While both are government-run programs, the assistance offered — and payouts to care providers — are quite different. Medicare typically offers support for those in need of shorter-term coverage. It also reimburses care providers at a much higher rate than Medicaid, which is typically utilized by those in need of long-term care solutions. NBC News noted that in California, nursing homes can receive more than $1,000 per day from Medicare coverage while it receives about $219 per day from Medicaid. That incentivizes the facilities to take in more Medicare recipients, who often will be in and out of the facility quicker, meaning the center can take in more patients. The downside of Medicare for the actual person in need of care is that it typically only provides full coverage for a short period — up to 20 days — before patients have to start paying for part of the fees. Nursing homes and care facilities have taken that opportunity to start handing out eviction notices around the 20 day mark, knowing that many of the patients won't have the funds to continue receiving the care they need.

Legally, residents of nursing homes can be evicted if their health improves enough for them to leave, if they are putting other residents in danger, if the facility can't meet their needs or if the resident stops paying and has not applied for Medicare or Medicaid for help. However, they are required to receive at least 30 days notice in writing before being evicted, and facilities are supposed to work with the resident to transition them to a more appropriate situation. According to the NBC News report, some facilities instead usher the patients out quickly, with little notice or support. However, in almost all cases, patients have the right to remain as long as they are in the process of qualifying for Medicaid or Medicare. Services like long-term care ombudsmen and the AARP have resources for the elderly, disabled and their family members to ensure they receive proper treatment and care from facilities. There are also legal resources that can help in these cases.