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Archive for Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Advocates unhappy with nursing home bill

April 20, 2005

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— Advocates for Kansans with disabilities on Tuesday voiced displeasure with Gov. Kathleen Sebelius for signing into law a bill sought by the nursing home industry.

"We are carving out a special interest group that will be able to hide bad reports," said Shannon Jones, executive director of the Statewide Independent Living Council of Kansas. "I can just see other industries lining up to get the same thing," she said.

Margaret Farley, a board member of Lawrence-based Kansas Advocates for Better Care, said the bill prevented the admissibility of nursing home inspections in court cases unless the inspection was substantially related to the allegations of abuse or wrongdoing made by nursing home clients.

Nursing home representatives have said they needed the protection to lower litigation costs that were driving up the cost of insurance. Linda Berndt, executive president of the Kansas Health Care Assn., which represents 200 facilities, said the law would improve care for clients by reducing legal expenses.

And, she said, there is nothing to prevent the admissibility of inspections related to the type of claim in court.

Ultimately, the interpretation of the law will be up to the courts, Farley said.

"It's an entirely new rule of evidence, and it's one that the district courts will struggle with," she said.

Other groups that had asked Sebelius to veto the bill were AARP, the Disability Rights Center, Kansas Area Agency on Aging Assn. and the Topeka Independent Living Resource Center.

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