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"Systemic Neglect": MarketWatch Speaks to Professor Nina Kohn About Nursing Home Reform

Posted on Friday 4/30/2021
Nina Kohn

Nursing-home reform efforts hit roadblocks

(MarketWatch | April 30, 2021) Private-equity firms have been prime targets in long-term-care reform proposals emerging during the COVID-19 crisis. But efforts to overhaul the industry are hitting a snag: that it’s tough to regulate nursing-home owners, operators and related parties when many of them remain in the shadows.

A report set to be released Friday by the Roosevelt Institute, a New York think tank, underscores the problem. Arguing that private-equity firms focus on extracting profits to the detriment of patient care, the report calls on Congress to ban these firms from buying nursing homes and to require those that currently operate facilities to divest from them within five years ...

... But many other researchers say the aim should not be to banish private equity or any other type of nursing-home owner but to hold all industry players to the same, high standards. To tackle concerns about operators putting profits over patients, regulators could make nursing homes less attractive to investors that aim to make a quick buck by skimping on staffing and patient care. That could mean mandating a certain number of staffing hours per resident day and requiring that facilities spend a threshold percentage of federal funds on resident care, says Nina Kohn, a professor at the Syracuse University College of Law.

With those changes, “you’re not simply limiting your focus to private equity,” Kohn says. “You’re really trying to get at the underlying problem, which is that nursing-home owners can make a profit — substantial profit — by deliberately deciding to engage in systemic neglect."

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