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Medical Liability Fines Could Put Some Kansas Adult Care Homes At Risk

Golden Years Senior Care Center
Golden Years Senior Care Center in Hutchinson faces fines under a bill passed by the Legislature that could threaten its survival.

Word that the Kansas Legislature has passed a bill allowing the state to fine adult care facilities that aren’t paying into a statewide medical liability protection fund brought Marie Jenks to tears.

For Jenks, the owner and operator of Golden Years Senior Care Center in Hutchinson, Thursday’s news was the last straw in what has been a series of difficult months.

The small facility she has owned for 30 years lost its coverage after a storm damaged the roof, and she’s been unable to secure a new plan that will satisfy the requirements of the Health Care Stabilization Fund.

“We have been trying to find anyone to insure us,” Jenks said. “I don’t know who everyone else is getting insurance with. … I don’t really understand what a person is supposed to do when no one will write a policy.”

The Health Care Stabilization Fund is intended to back up Kansas medical providers if a malpractice claim exceeds their primary insurance coverage.

Doctors, hospitals and other medical providers have been required to participate in the fund for decades by purchasing primary insurance plans from a list of carriers that pay into the fund.

Adult care facilities were added to the fund last year — a move the state’s largest nursing home lobbying groups supported. Most facilities had fund-compliant plans within months.

House Substitute for Senate Bill 55, if approved by Gov. Sam Brownback, would allow the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services to send correction orders to the few facilities not in compliance. If the facilities fail to respond to those orders, KDADS could impose $500 daily fines for up to five days.

Last year four facilities — Golden Years Senior Care Center, Country Club Estates in Paola, Westview Manor in Derby and Indian Creek Health Care Center in Overland Park — failed to comply with the insurance requirements.

Administrators from Country Club Estates and Westview Manor said Thursday that they have purchased compliant plans this year.

An administrator at Indian Creek Health Center requested information on where the facility could purchase fund-compliant plans.

Jenks requested the list as well but said she had more pressing problems due to the state’s failure to process Medicaid claims applications and renewals on time — an issue that has strained adult care facilities across the state.

Golden Years has nine beds, eight of which are occupied by residents who pay through Medicaid. 

“I felt like they were just trying to close our doors,” Jenks said of the Medicaid delays. “I could fax you papers (that show) in one week alone $5,000 worth of checks that should have came. … We’re such a small home that when you hold $5,000 from us, that’s massive.”

Jenks said Golden Years operates on a “skeleton crew.” When she answered the phone Thursday, she was in the middle of cooking lunch for the residents.

“We are absolutely on our last month without the money,” Jenks said.

She said local hospitals and physicians know Golden Years as a place they can send people who have limited financial means. She charges residents a $650 per month base rate.

She broke down in sobs as she described the weight of trying to find other care options for her residents if she is unable to keep the doors open.

“Where are they going to go?” Jenks said. “Who’s going to take these people? Everywhere I call, they charge more than that. They don’t have more than that.”

Andy Marso is a reporter for KHI News Service in Topeka, a partner in the Heartland Health Monitor team. You can reach him on Twitter @andymarso

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