You may be able to fight a nursing home discharge

Sometimes a nursing home wants to get rid of a particular resident. It might think the resident (or the resident’s family) is “difficult.” The resident might require more expensive or demanding care than others. Or the resident might be a Medicaid recipient, and the nursing home could make more money by replacing him or her with a private-pay individual.

The usual way that nursing homes get rid of residents is to transfer them to a hospital, then refuse to let them back in. This can obviously be very traumatic for the resident. However, it’s sometimes possible for residents to fight back and challenge such discharges legally.

According to federal law, a nursing home can discharge a resident only for the following reasons:

  • The resident’s health has improved.
  • The nursing home can’t meet the resident’s needs.
  • The resident hasn’t paid (after receiving adequate notice).
  • The resident is endangering the health and safety of others.
  • The nursing home is going out of business.

A nursing home can transfer a resident to a hospital, if this is required for the person’s care. However, if it does so, most states require the nursing home to hold the person’s bed open for them for a certain number of days (usually about a week). Before transferring a resident, the home must tell the person about its “bed-hold” policy.

A nursing home can require a resident to pay a fee to hold the bed open. If the person receives Medicaid, Medicaid will pay this fee. Also, if a Medicaid recipient is in the hospital longer than the “bed-hold” period, then when he or she leaves the hospital, the nursing home must readmit the person to the first available bed.

In general, a nursing home can’t discharge someone unless it provides 30 days’ notice (although shorter notice is allowed in an emergency), and unless it provides certain specific information and a discharge plan. A discharge plan must ensure the resident has a safe place to go, preferably near family, and outline the care the resident will receive after the discharge.

If you think you or someone you know was discharged improperly, you can appeal or file a complaint with the state. You should contact us quickly, because your chances of success are much better if you appeal as soon as possible.

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