House passes bill to fine, collect investigative costs from nursing home operators
The Idaho House of Representatives has passed legislation that, if it becomes law, will allow the state government to collect both a fine and investigative costs from nursing home operators if they are found guilty of rules violations.
“The fine seems excessive to me,” Rep. Vito Barbieri, R-Dalton Gardens, told IdahoReporter.com after the vote.
Passing by a margin of 54-13, House Bill 36 would give the Idaho government the ability to fine nursing home operators up to $1,000 and force operators to reimburse the state for investigation costs if the operators are found guilty following an investigation.
Last week, Idaho’s House Health and Welfare Committee heard the bill. It was presented by Roger Hales, an attorney with the Idaho Bureau of Occupational Licenses.
“I have two concerns,” Rep. Christy Perry, R-Nampa, said to Hales during questioning. “Has it been considered that a person might simply accept a fine so as to avoid the risk of an investigation? And what if a person is found innocent in an investigation? Are they still liable for the investigative costs?”
Hales responded that the Idaho Board of Nursing Home Administrators allows for due process, so nursing home operators who stand accused of violations can defend themselves. He did not comment on the question of accepting fines as a means of avoiding investigations.
“It’s always a concern that a business owner in this scenario might simply pay a fee, and try to avoid an investigation,” Rep. Luke Malek, R-Coeur d’Alene, told IdahoReporter.com after last week’s committee hearing, in response to Perry’s concern. “However, we had several stakeholders in this committee hearing, and we had broad support with the proposal. I do not believe this law would make it more difficult, or more risky, to operate a nursing home business.”
Rep. Mike Moyle, R-Star, viewed the bill differently. “It doesn’t work both ways,” Moyle told IdahoReporter.com after the bill’s passage. “We want to tell nursing home operators, ‘hey, we’re sorry, our investigation turned up nothing on you, so you don’t have to pay a fine.’ That’s nice, but the bill makes no provision for reimbursing nursing home operators for their expenditures when they have to defend themselves against an accusation from the state, or perhaps even when they are wrongly accused.”
Barbieri concurred with Moyle. “These fines really add up, along with all the other due process expenses that business owners face.”