December 01, 2008
Ask the legal expert
Attorney John Durso, Ungaretti & Harris LLP
To avoid possible legal problems down the road, we've decided to aggressively “trust and verify” the accuracy of financial and background disclosures for admissions. What, however, are the legal concerns with how we do this?
Many long-term care facilities engage in independent background checks to verify incoming resident disclosures regarding finances and other background concerns. Generally, there is no legal prohibition against such inquiries, but it may be wise to refer to your individual state law before enacting such a policy. You don't want to misstep with a potential new client.
Please be advised that the following issues may merit consideration when creating and implementing your verification policy:
Many states require proof of your degree of charitable care in order to qualify for a real estate tax exemption. Therefore, your facility must be aware that across-the-board non-admittance of prospective residents with limited finances may place your facility's tax-exempt status in jeopardy. This could be extremely costly in the long run.
Federal law and many state laws provide express protection of a resident's privacy in their medical and personal care. For example, Illinois' Nursing Home Care Act mandates that the facility protect a resident's privacy. Therefore, where confidential information is obtained in the background checks, the facility must take caution to follow all federal and state privacy laws regarding the handling of such sensitive information.
Under federal law, long-term care facilities are entitled to be notified of registered sex offender status. However, states have broad discretion in the implementation of this requirement, thus varying the degree of available content by state.
The more you know, the better the decisions you can make, so be inquisitive, within the bounds of your local restrictions.