Nursing home companies step up ad campaign for bill that could shield them from some lawsuits

02/11/2013 12:09 PM

Nursing home companies have ramped up their public advertising in support of a state Senate bill that would set up a medical review panel to screen malpractice lawsuits against long-term care facilities.

The Kentucky Association of Health Care Facilities began airing a TV ad Monday in support of Senate Bill 9 sponsored by Sen. Julie Denton, R-Louisville. The ads are running statewide on cable and network television, but the group isn’t publicly disclosing how large the ad buy is, said Steve Bryant, who handles health care accounts for RunSwitch PR — the company working with the nursing home trade group.

“However, I have to imagine it is far less than what personal injury lawyers spend on their attack ads on any given day,” Bryant said.

In fact, that’s one of the arguments nursing home officials are making for the bill. Ruby Jo Lubarsky, president of the trade group, said personal injury lawyers are harming nursing home companies’ reputation by airing ads featuring “a parade of horribles.”

“They are disgusting, hurtful and paint an entirely incorrect picture of the quality care our facilities provide residents every day. That’s why we’re running our own ads to highlight the truth and shed some light on their predatory practices,” Lubarsky said in a statement.

Here’s the ad:

Senate Bill 9 calls for a panel of one attorney and three physicians who would be selected from a list. Lawyers from both sides of the malpractice suit would take turns striking names until one attorney and three doctors are left.

The panel could gather evidence, such as non-privileged medical documents, and take depositions. And then the panel is charged with deciding whether a malpractice complaint about nursing home care can be backed up. The findings of the panel could then be used in court proceedings.

The TV spot follows a radio spot the group launched last week, as WFPL’s Kenny Colston reported. The radio spot begin airing after the bill made it through the Senate Health and Welfare Committee that Denton chairs.

The measure is awaiting a vote on the Senate floor. Even if it passes the Senate, the legislation looks to face opposition in the House.

The chairman of the House Health and Welfare Committee — Rep. Tom Burch, D-Louisville — told Pure Politics on Monday that he opposes the bill because it could hamper families’ ability to challenge or seek compensation for negligence by nursing home companies.

About Ryan Alessi

Ryan Alessi joined cn|2 in May 2010 as senior managing editor and host of Pure Politics. He is now pursuing an advanced degree in non-fiction writing from Murray State University and is a regular contributor to Pure Politics. Ryan has covered politics for more than 14 years, including seven years as a reporter for the Lexington Herald-Leader. Ryan can be reached at purepolitics@twcable.com or @mycn2 on Twitter.

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