Senators press IG to act to prevent nursing homes from seizing coronavirus checks

Senators press IG to act to prevent nursing homes from seizing coronavirus checks
© Greg Nash

The leaders of the Senate Finance Committee are urging a watchdog for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to issue alerts in an effort to protect residents of nursing homes and assisted living facilities from having their coronavirus relief payments confiscated by their residences.

"We write today in an effort to work with your office to protect and educate Medicaid recipients, specifically those living in nursing homes and assisted living facilities around the country, and to educate such providers to prevent improper and unlawful practices," Senate Finance Chairman Chuck GrassleyChuck GrassleyGOP blocks bill to expand gun background checks after Michigan school shooting GOP ramps up attacks on SALT deduction provision Graham emerges as go-to ally for Biden's judicial picks MORE (R-Iowa) and ranking member Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenSenate parliamentarian looms over White House spending bill Democrats push tax credits to bolster clean energy Five reasons for concern about Democrats' drug price control plan MORE (D-Ore.) said in a letter to Christi Grimm, the acting inspector general for HHS.

The $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief law President TrumpDonald TrumpBaldwin calls Trump criticism following 'Rust' shooting 'surreal' Haley hits the stump in South Carolina Mary Trump files to dismiss Trump's lawsuit over NYT tax story MORE signed in March provided for one-time direct payments of up to $1,200 per adult and $500 per dependent child. The payments are considered advances on tax credits, and are not considered "resources" for Medicaid purposes.

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However, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and state attorney general offices are reporting that some nursing homes and assisted living facilities are improperly telling their residents on Medicaid that the coronavirus checks are resources owed to the facilities. 

Wyden and Grassley said that the FTC's alerts are important, "but we believe more could be done to alert the residents of these facilities, many of whom are frail and elderly, as well as the facilities themselves about the unlawful nature of this practice."

They urged the HHS inspector general's office to issue alerts to the public and operators of long-term care facilities in order to ensure that residents of the facilities don't have their payments seized. They said that issuing such alerts would be consistent with the IG office's practice of Medicaid and Medicare recipients are affected by scams.

Wyden and Grassley aren't the only lawmakers who have expressed concerns in recent days about reports of nursing homes seizing residents' coronavirus rebates.

Rep. Gwen MooreGwen Sophia MoorePentagon 'aware' of reports Wisconsin military base's struggle to feed, heat Afghan refugees Wisconsin GOP quietly prepares Ron Johnson backup plans Pelosi picks Democrats for special panel tackling inequality MORE (D-Wis.), a member of the House Ways and Means Committee, on Tuesday sent a letter to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA), "to exercise its oversight over fraudulent activity related to these payments to protect patients and residents of these facilities who are properly entitled to their [check]." She also urged TIGTA to issue an alert to residents of nursing homes and assisted-living facilities.

Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard NealRichard Edmund NealGOP fears boomerang as threat of government shutdown grows House passes giant social policy and climate measure The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by ExxonMobil - House to vote on Biden social spending bill after McCarthy delay MORE (D-Mass.) and House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.) sent a letter on Monday about the issue of facilities taking residents' relief payments to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).

CMS Administrator Seema Verma replied to Neal and Pallone on Tuesday, saying on Twitter that "nursing homes engaging in this behavior will be subject to enforcement action."

The American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living said in a statement Monday that they were not aware of widespread issues concerning residents' payments.