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Is ending anonymous calls on nursing home complaints a good idea?

If there is a clear growth industry in Illinois and the rest of the country right now it is the one serving senior living. Demand for facilities catering to the potential living and healthcare needs of the senior population for the final 20, 30, or more, years of life is only going to increase as the elder demographic of the country rises.

Where such opportunity exists there is always an attraction for opportunists -- those who seek to make a quick buck without caring too much about the long term. Residents, who may become seen as little more than products, can encourage operators to allow negligence in care. What matters is maximizing profit.

There are laws on the books in Illinois to provide protection against nursing home abuse and neglect. But enforcement depends on the problems being reported so that they can be investigated, so any hurdle to blowing a whistle deserves close scrutiny.

That's the attitude that is being adopted by a number of experts in this particular area when it comes to a measure advancing in the Illinois legislature. It would make it illegal for a person to anonymously bring a complaint against a nursing home by phone. Callers would have to identify themselves.

Proponents of the measure, including groups representing nursing home operators, say it would weed out false complaints that result in unnecessary and expensive investigations. But opponents, including the state's Department on Aging, say any such move puts money ahead of people -- especially vulnerable nursing home residents -- which is the wrong way to go.

As this is written, the bill is still in the works and the governor's office hasn't said whether he will sign it.

What do you think? Is this bill a good idea?

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