California sues nursing home chain over alleged Medicare ‘manipulation’
California prosecutors on Monday filed a lawsuit against Brookdale Senior Living, the state’s largest nursing home chain, accusing it of manipulating ratings on the federal government’s rating system, as well as illegally discharging patients.
The New York Times reports that California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, President Biden’s nominee to lead the Department of Health and Human Services, filed the lawsuit along with other prosecutors in the Superior Court in California. They accuse Brookdale of winning “undeserved higher star ratings” up until April 2018 by submitting false reports about its staff members.
The company is accused of also illegally evicting or transferring patients in order to “fill its beds with residents who will bring in more money,” the Times reports. Prosecutors said Brookdale once discharged a 78-year-old resident with heart and kidney disease without removing his catheter.
It also reportedly continued rigging the system in its favor even after the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) improved its method of collecting staff data. Prosecutors accuse the nursing home system of logging nurses’ daily hours instead of depending on individual nursing homes to report the amount of time spent with patients.
The manipulation resulted in Brookdale being “awarded higher star ratings than it deserved,” prosecutors wrote.
“The chain’s manipulation has allowed Brookdale to attract prospective patients and their families to its facilities by misleading them about its quality of care,” they say.
“We categorically deny that Brookdale engaged in intentional or fraudulent conduct. We are disappointed in the allegations against the skilled nursing industry. Publicizing unproven allegations is reckless and undermines the public’s confidence in a service necessary to the care of elderly individuals, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic,” a company spokesperson said in a statement provided to The Hill.
The Times reports that the lawsuit seeks civil penalties and an injunction in order to prevent unlawful conduct in the future. The civil penalties could result in up to $2,500 per violation found as well as an additional $2,500 for violations committed against senior citizens and those with disabilities.
“We have detailed policies in place to ensure compliance with C.M.S. reporting rules, and we are not aware of any instance where inaccurate or false information was submitted by any of our communities outside of the confines of the C.M.S. rules,” Brookdale spokeswoman Heather Hunter told the Times.
—Updated at 6:04 p.m.