The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

Illinois Nursing Home Scam

Nov 8, 2021

Throughout the pandemic, the Illinois state government enabled nursing home owners to abuse and neglect its most vulnerable citizens.

By June 2021, nursing homes accounted for nearly half of Illinois’ COVID-19 deaths. While their owners said they were doing all they could to prevent COVID spread, the patient to nurse ratio and overall staffing levels were dropping, and conditions for residents were steadily worsening.

Previously hidden information was uncovered under a Freedom of Information Act and multiple investigations. They exposed complicity of the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) with the nursing home operators. While IDPH’s job has been “to lead the fight against COVID,” behind the scenes it was looking the other way when nursing homes jacked up profits by reducing staffing levels and increased room occupancy, at precisely the time residents were in most need of care and protection. Thousands of COVID deaths were a direct result.

Nursing home workers remain overburdened, exhausted, and stressed. In 2019, Illinois ranked last in nursing home staffing. It had the second highest number of substantiated complaints per facility compared to similar states. Twenty percent of long-term facilities had the lowest (1 star) rating.

COVID deaths and complaints are worst in working class areas, especially those with large numbers of Medicaid patients. Nursing home residents who rely on Medicaid are 40% more likely to die from the coronavirus because they occupy the most poorly staffed facilities and most crowded rooms.

All the while owners were scheming behind the scenes and showering Illinois lawmakers with hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions to access a $486 million handout. This they demanded despite three funding hikes for nursing homes since 2014 which supposedly were to improve staffing coverage. Taxpayers already cough up $2.5 billion annually to the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services, supposedly earmarked for these expenses.

Investigations showed how these corporations routinely hide their profits by paying themselves huge fees through vendor and real-estate firms they control. Complicated ownership structures allow them to cry poor while deal-making with the government for more taxpayer dollars.

In the process, the old, the sick, the poor, the vulnerable are grist for the profit-mill.