Texas legislators are currently considering a bill that would revoke nursing home licenses if they have three or more serious health violations that "constitute an immediate threat to health and safety related to the abuse or neglect of a resident."
The proposal comes after Texas received local and national attention regarding elder home care. National advocacy group Families for Better Care ranked Texas as the worst state in the nation in caring for nursing home residents. Austin NBC affiliate KXAN reported that state agencies failed to report 1,500 cases of alleged abuse, neglect and exploitation within 24 hours to law enforcement, as required by Texas law. In May, 2014, the Texas Legislature's Sunset Advisory Commission also called for stricter penalties for elder care facilities that do not meet state and federal regulations, finding that few long-term care providers face enforcement actions for violations.
Proposed bill details
Senator Charles Schwertner, chairman of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, proposed bill SB 304, yet untitled. Schwertzer proposed the legislation believing that the state's current authority to revoke a nursing home license is too vague. The three violations that would bring license revocation would have to come in separate surveys, inspections, or investigation visits.
As part of the enforcement overhaul, lawmakers may also merge the Department of Aging and Disability Services, which would have the authority to revoke a nursing home's license, with four other agencies under the Health and Human Services Commission.
Texas nursing homes were quick to point out after the bill was introduced that nursing homes are already heavily regulated. Texas regulators currently have authority to require compliance with state and federal regulations and may impose financial penalties for noncompliant facilities. Other industry veterans suggest that under the bill, potentially arbitrary measures like self-reported patient wellness may harm nursing homes without being indicative of a low level of care.
Nursing home defense
It is clear that nursing homes in Texas will face increasing scrutiny after the pressure put on Texas enforcement authorities to protect elderly residents. That means nursing homes with only one or two alleged instances of neglect may find themselves in danger of license revocation.
At The Law Offices of Alejandro Mora, PLLC, our team has experience defending health care professionals and facilities in a wide range of administrative actions, including license revocation. While it is unclear if the bill will become law, it is clear that Texas lawmakers and authorities are renewing their focus on noncompliant long-term care facilities. Any facility facing enforcement action should contact our offices to discuss their legal options and protect their rights moving forward.