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Missouri House Debates Access to Consumer Complaints Against Nursing Homes

April 10, 2002
By: Jon Ariztimuno
State Capital Bureau
Links: HB1654, HB1156

JEFFERSON CITY - Columbians already worried by a consumer report which criticized poor living conditions in some local nursing homes could have lost their right to access such information on Wednesday. During a House debate on a bill which places stricter controls on the nursing home industry, some Missouri representatives proposed amendments which would have reduced access to consumer complaints against the institutions.

"For people to make intelligent decisions about nursing home placement, there needs to be as much information available towards public safety as possible," said the bill's sponsor, Rep. Craig Hosmer, D-Springfield.

Hosmer and other Democrats said they were satisfied that attempts to reduce the possibility of accessing information critical of nursing homes had successfully been defeated.

"The nursing home industry is very powerful in Jefferson City," said Tim Harlan, D-Columbia. "Anytime there is an attempt to provide more protection for senior citizens or more accountability for the spending of public dollars, we know that there will be opposition from the nursing home industry."

"I think we need more public scrutiny of nursing homes, not less," he said. Some of the original amendments that were offered to this bill would have provided less public information about Columbia nursing homes.

Some Republican legislators replied that they were not against the bill.

Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer, R-St. Elizabeth, offered two amendments to the bill but only one was adopted.

"Neither amendment is an amendment that would kill the bill," said Luetkemeyer, who is the House Republican caucus chairman. "We are trying to improve it and make it better. I want to vote for the bill", he said.

Rep. Pat Naeger, R-Perryville, proposed an amendment to close all records of complaints filed against nursing homes except the final report after investigation by state officials, but opponents said that could take years. Naeger said his intent in proposing the bill was to raise the issue of unsubstantiated consumer complaints against nursing homes, which are sometimes used by insurance companies to jack up nursing home premiums.

Lawmakers finally reached a compromise on the insurance concern and adopted a substitute to the amendment. Introduced by Harlan, the substitute leaves consumer complaints accessible to the public but prohibits insurance companies from using such information to increase their premiums.

"If family members discover that someone has perhaps been injured or has not been taken care of properly, they need to have any of the available reports as soon as possible", Harlan said.