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Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Wall Street will kill Grandma to make a buck

Don't trust Wall Street with nursing homes

By Jim Hightower 

(Illustration created with Getty Images)
There are industries that occasionally do something rotten. And there are industries like Big Oil, Big Pharma, and Big Tobacco that persistently do rotten things.

Then there is the nursing home industry — where rottenness has become a core business principle. 

The end-of-life experience can be rotten enough on its own, with an assortment of natural indignities bedeviling us. Good nursing homes help patients gently through this time. In the past couple of decades, though, an entirely unnatural force has come to dominate the delivery of aged care: profiteering corporate chains and Wall Street speculators.

The very fact that this essential and sensitive social function, which ought to be the domain of health professionals and charitable enterprises, is now called an “industry” reflects a total perversion of its purpose. 

Some 70 percent of nursing homes are now corporate operations, often  run by absentee executives who have no experience in nursing homes and who are guided by the market imperative of maximizing investor profits. They constantly demand “efficiencies” from their facilities — which invariably means reducing the number of nurses, which invariably reduces care, which means more injuries, illness… and deaths. 

As one nursing expert quoted by The New Yorker rightly says, “It’s criminal.”

But it’s not against the law, since the industry’s lobbying front — a major donor to congressional campaigns — effectively writes the laws, which allows corporate hustlers to provide only one nurse on duty, no matter how many patients are in the facility. 

When a humane nurse-staffing requirement was proposed last year, the lobby group furiously opposed it… and Congress dutifully bowed to industry profits over grandma’s decent end-time. After all, granny doesn’t make campaign donations.

So, as a health policy analyst bluntly puts it, “The only kind of groups that seem to be interested in investing in nursing homes are bad actors.” To help push for better, contact 

OtherWords columnist Jim Hightower is a radio commentator, writer, and public speaker. This op-ed was distributed by