Fast growth in nursing home ownership ripe for investigation

Liz Seegert

About Liz Seegert

Liz Seegert (@lseegert), is AHCJ’s topic editor on aging. Her work has appeared in NextAvenue.com, Journal of Active Aging, Cancer Today, Kaiser Health News, the Connecticut Health I-Team and other outlets. She is a senior fellow at the Center for Health Policy and Media Engagement at George Washington University and co-produces the HealthCetera podcast.

Photo: Ulrich Joho via Flickr

Photo: Ulrich Joho via Flickr

Serious problems at nursing homes are often easy to conceal. That is, unless you specifically dig for patterns of fraud, abuse, or misconduct.  That’s exactly what award-winning Boston Globe journalist Kay Lazar did to uncover a pattern of high profits for the owners, while complaints and problems mounted.

In a series of gripping stories, Lazar provided both micro and macro views of complex and potentially dangerous situations in nursing homes purchased by fast-growing Synergy Health Centers. She explored how failures in the Massachusetts state licensing system hurt families and how state regulators failed to perform the most basic checks on company executives and company finances before granting licenses. The state health commissioner, whose agency grants licenses, acknowledged the system needs to be overhauled. Following Lazar’s articles last year, the state announced in February that it was tightening its nursing home oversight.

Kay Lazar

Kay Lazar

For her 2015 body of work, AHCJ honored Lazar at Health Journalism 2016 with an Award for Excellence in Health Care Journalism second place in the beat reporting category. It wasn’t the first time she’d been recognized for her reporting on nursing home abuses. Lazar also was honored by AHCJ for her 2011 coverage of the overuse of antipsychotic medications among nursing home residents. Look for more of her tenacious reporting on problems with Massachusetts nursing homes throughout 2016.

In a new How I Did It, Lazar explains the extensive efforts involved in pursuing a lead that still has unanswered questions.

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