A bill pending in the Illinois Senate would eliminate fines for nursing homes found to have rendered substandard care to their residents, provided that the money that the nursing home would have been otherwise been fined is used to correct the deficiency. Not surprisingly, the nursing home industry strongly supports the bill.This is one of the screwiest pieces of legislation to see the light of day in Springfield, and that’s saying something.Nursing homes are required to comply with all applicable state and federal regulations in caring for their residents. Whatever it costs to do that, they have to meet those requirements. When they don’t, they are subject to having to pay a fine. That’s part of their incentive to meet the regulatory minimums.Now, if they do not have to pay a fine when they fail to meet the minimums, they simply have to plow that money back into their operating budget and will never have to write a check to the state for substandard care. In other words, if they spend the money on care that they should have in the first place, they do not have to pay a fine.If this becomes the law, there is no incentive for nursing home operators to not take the money out of their operating budgets, knowing that if they get cited (and the citation is upheld), they will have to put the money back into their operations budget. If they do not get fined, they keep the money. It creates a tremendous incentive to shave the operating budget as the worst that can happen is that the money goes back into the budget. If they do not get a citation which is upheld (which is entirely different from having residents suffer due to substandard care), they keep the money. It encourages nursing home neglect and abuse for profit.Of course, even if the law is passed, to be effective, there needs to be an aggressive policing of the state’s nursing homes for care issues (an assumption that I do not share) and a method to determine whether the fine money is actually being directed toward curing the problem.A far better solution is to not pass this legislation.