On August 7, 2020, the Center for Medicare Advocacy joined AARP, the National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care, and other advocates in an amicus brief submitted in Talevski v. Health and Hosp. Corp. of Marion Cnty. Corp., et al. The amicus brief supports a private right of enforcement for residents of state-run facilities under the Nursing Home Reform Act (NRHA). The NHRA mandates that nursing homes maintain minimum standards of care and it includes a “Residents’ Bill of Rights.” Those rights include freedom from abuse and neglect, freedom from illegal discharges, and freedom from chemical restraints administered for staff’s convenience. As explained in the advocates’ amicus brief, these legal rights “are a matter of life and death for nursing facility residents. Even today, residents still experience abuse, neglect, and dangerously poor care in many facilities.” The COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated the vulnerability of nursing home residents, as the virus has infected facilities and visitation restrictions have limited contact with the family members and advocates who usually play a key role in protecting residents.
The mere existence of rights in the law is not sufficient and regulatory oversight has proven to be inadequate. Residents must be able to go to court to hold nursing homes accountable. The Center’s joint amicus brief urges the Seventh Circuit to join the Third and Ninth Circuit Courts of Appeal in holding that residents can bring an action under Section 1983 of the Civil Rights Act against state-run facilities to enforce violations of the Nursing Home Reform Law.