May 14, 2004

Symposium examines long-term health care system

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- With the average life expectancy now at 77, Americans are living longer. That is generating a growing awareness of the need for safe, high-quality and affordable long-term health care.

A two-day symposium next week at Southern Illinois University Carbondale's law school will examine ways to improve the quality of nursing home and long-term care in the United States.

The symposium, "Improving the Long Term Care System: What is the Role of Regulation?" is Thursday and Friday, May 20 and 21. The symposium features five of the nation's leading experts in the long-term health care field.

Media Advisory

Reporters and photographers are welcome to cover the symposium. For more information or to pre-arrange interviews with speakers, contact law professor W. Eugene Basanta at 618/453-8748.

The Southern Illinois Healthcare/SIU Health Policy Institute, SIUC's medical and law schools and Southern Illinois Healthcare are sponsoring the sixth annual program.

The event is intended primarily for health and human service providers and attorneys who represent long-term care facilities as well as residents, but is open to the public. The registration fee is $100. Physicians, nurses, nursing home administrators and social workers can receive up to 7.25 hours of continuing education credits by attending. Registration will be accepted at the symposium Thursday morning. Online registration is available at

The program will explore existing regulations from the perspectives of the nursing home industry, consumer advocates, long-term care medical providers, government regulators and hospital personnel who interact with nursing facilities.

The presenters will contribute greatly to the symposium, said Marshall B. Kapp, the Grayson Distinguished Visiting Professor of Law and Medicine at SIUC.

"If I were putting on this program in Washington, D.C., these are the same people I would try to get as my speakers," he said. "It really is a national-caliber program. These are excellent spokespeople for their different perspectives."

America is aging, and the issue of quality long-term health care, along with the associated costs, is of increasing concern for everyone involved, said SIUC law professor W. Eugene Basanta, who is helping organize the event.

Recent statistics from various health and life insurance organizations on the costs of long-term home care and in nursing homes are startling.

  • Average annual cost for nursing home care is more than $58,000; for home care, more than $23,000.

  • Nursing home care costs will increase to $190,000 annually by 2030.

  • Nearly half of all Americans will need long-term care at some point in their lives, and one in five over 50 years old is at high risk of needing it within the next 12 months.

There are more than 15,000 nursing homes in the United States, and 1.5 million people live in nursing homes, Kapp said. Nursing homes already operate under strict regulations, and he believes the answer is not more regulation but making existing regulations smarter and more effective.

"The first step on the arduous journey of finding ways to improve the safety and quality of nursing home care in the United States must be the initiation of non-adversarial and non-threatening dialogue," Kapp wrote in the March 2003 issue of the Journal of Legal Medicine.

The Journal of Legal Medicine will publish papers from the symposium. Basanta hopes the program also generates further discussion about long-term care issues. By bringing together regulators, consumer advocates, industry representatives and health care providers, "You may be able to get a more positive, non-adversarial cooperative environment to look at improving the quality of care in nursing homes," he said.

The program schedule, topics, and speakers are:

Thursday, May 20

  • 1 p.m. -- Welcome, Dr. Thomas J. Firestone, president, Southern Illinois Healthcare; Theodore R. LeBlang, professor and chair of the Department of Medical Humanities, SIUC medical school, and Marshall B. Kapp, SIUC law school.

  • 1:15 p.m. -- "Long-term Care Regulation and Enforcement: An Overview from the Perspective of Residents and their Families."Donna R. Lenhoff, public interest attorney and former executive director of the National Citizens' Coalition for Nursing Home Reform.

  • 2:30 p.m. -- "Quality Nursing Home Care: What's Regulation Got to Do with It?" Jennifer Hilliard, public policy attorney for American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging.

  • 4 p.m. -- "Biting the Hand that Feeds: A Clinician's View of the Enforcement Regulations." Dr. Rebecca Elon, medical director, North Arundel Senior Care, and former medical director of the Johns Hopkins Geriatric Center.

Friday, May 21

  • 8:30 a.m. -- "Surviving the Long-Term Care Maze: Understanding Regulatory Compliance." Olga Cotera, a health-care consultant, educator and author who deals with patient-care issues between hospitals and long-term care facilities.

  • 10:15 a.m. -- "The Regulator's Perspective: Driving Improvement Through Quality Initiatives." Dr. Susan Nedza, medical director, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Region V, Chicago.

Pursuing opportunities to address social and health issues of importance to our region is among the goals of Southern@150, the blueprint for the development of the University by the time it celebrates its 150th anniversary in 2019.