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Seven different nursing homes have recently filed a lawsuit in federal court against the Florida agency that regulates them. In a federal lawsuit against the Agency for Health Care Administration, the nursing homes dispute the rights of the husbands and wives of dead residents from getting their records so they can know what the nursing home records say about the care their loved ones received. The nursing homes argue that a state law that permits widows and widowers to get the records conflicts with the federal medical records privacy law known as HIPAA, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. These nursing homes insist that widows and widowers should first have to petition a state probate court to be legally appointed the “personal representative” of the deceased before they can legally demand the nursing homes’ records of care. The nursing homes insist that the federal law prohibits relatives, including widows and widowers, from getting copies of nursing home records showing what happened to their loved ones unless they first spend thousands of dollars in legal fees to open an estate in probate court, even when the loved one left no assets, no property and no will, and regardless of whether the relatives can afford to open an estate. Why? What are they hiding? Is this fair?
We can tell you why. They know that the more expensive they make it, the more likely that the family of an abused or neglected senior citizen will just go away and leave them alone, even if they and their staff abused and neglected their loved one to death. This is wrong. Call your legislator and demand that the HIPAA law be clarified to guarantee unfettered access to the medical and nursing home records of loved ones, without the necessity of spending thousands of dollars to open an estate.