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The corporations that own and operate Assisted Living, Nursing Homes, and even Hospitals are really, really, good at one thing – unfortunately its not providing care.  What they are good at is the business of self-promotion at all cost to their patients.  The assisted living and nursing home industry, along with the hospitals they shuffle patients back and forth to, have spent well over $1 BILLION dollars on lobbying our government to get what they want, according to data compiled by Open Hospitals and nursing homes spent $67 million dollars so far in 2013 alone on lobbying politicians.  That’s $67 million that could have been spent on care.  What is worse than the lobbying and the self-pity claims of litigation costs is the self-righteous advertising that, according to some, borders on outright fraud.

Per the New York Times’ article entitled The Hype Over Hospital Rankings, “We’re pushing $3 trillion in health expenditures, and one-third of that is waste,” said Dr. Eric Topol, chief academic officer at Scripps Health in California. “Those TV commercials saying ‘I got my cancer care at X hospital’ are a shame, definitely wasteful.”  You can’t get in an elevator in a hospital without hearing how great it is.  We are ranked in the top of the country in this, just look.  I have personally seen the inner workings of assisted living facilities, nursing homes, and hospitals, for a long time, and they are far from what they say they are.

“Nearly every hospital has a banner out front saying they’re a ‘top hospital’ for something in some rating system,” said Dr. Nicholas Osborne, a Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholar at the University of Michigan. “Those ratings have become more important for hospital marketing than for actually helping patients find the best care.”

Some critics decry the glut of hospital self-promotion as not just wasteful and costly, but also potentially dangerous.

“There are general fraud laws, but there is no law specific to hospital advertising, and there should be,” said Robert Steinbuch, a professor of law at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, who studies the topic. “I can’t tell you how many hospitals say, ‘We have state-of-the-art CAT scanners’ — there is no such thing! It’s an old technology.”


We went through a billion dollars on lobbying, a trillion dollars wasted in the fraudulent boasting of how great each hospital or facility is, and now we get to eight dollars.  Yes, CNAs can average making $8-10 an hour.  These are the people that actually provide the care in nursing homes.  Staffing is the largest cost for the companies, and they just aren’t willing to spend it on care.  Incredible.


It is almost unfathomable for me to think of treating our country’s elderly – the heroes of World War II, those that rebuilt our country, that fought for our very freedoms – as nothing more than a means to make money.  I cannot imagine spending hundreds of millions of dollars on advertising, and lobbying, and consciously choosing to spend to little on care.

Have you taken a look at a brochure or website from an assisted living facility, nursing home, or hospital lately?  They make me sick to my stomach.  As a real, practicing personal injury lawyer who has handled hundreds of cases involving assisted living neglect, nursing home abuse, or hospital malpractice, it makes me very sad for those patients without families to look out for them, and it makes me equally angry at the facilities for saying things that just aren’t true.

Perhaps the worst, glaring reminders of the commodity that the seniors are viewed as by these corporations are insights into their internal documents.  They are all about spin, marketing, and self-promotion.  An industry magazine that I obtained had this in it, “Discover The 3 Essential Pillars Of Highly Profitable Senior Living Marketing”.  The article claims:

“To Survive in Today’s Senior Living Environment Takes Advanced Marketing Strategies and Innovation.”  The article, incredibly, sums up what I believe is the long term care industry’s ultimate position: “‘Marketing and innovation produce results; all the rest are costs. Marketing is the distinguishing, unique function of the business.’ Those words of wisdom couldn’t be truer in senior living today. In 2013 and beyond, there’s going to be a shift from focusing on finance and operations to marketing and innovation.

Yes, you read that right.  They say everything else is just a cost.  Operations don’t matter.  (Operations means taking care of people).  Its all about their marketing.  Overbilling and fraud are huge problems in the health care industry, and all of these rankings, advice on “How Cross-selling, up-selling, and forming alliances puts cash in the bank” seem to really shift the focus away from where it should be – taking care of somebody.


Nathan Hughey is the owner of Hughey Injury Lawyers.  He practices primarily in the areas of health care negligence, auto accidents, and other civil litigation claims.  He was formerly a health care negligence defense attorney.  Today he represents the interests of people injured.