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 GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleySenate GOP open to confirming Yellen to be Biden's Treasury secretary Biden budget pick sparks battle with GOP Senate Grassley returns to Capitol after having coronavirus MORE (R-Iowa) and ranking member Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenTwo more parting shots from Trump aimed squarely at disabled workers On The Money: Push for student loan forgiveness puts Biden in tight spot | Trump is wild card as shutdown fears grow | Mnuchin asks Fed to return 5 billion in unspent COVID emergency funds Grassley, Wyden criticize Treasury guidance concerning PPP loans 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 John TrumpTrump alludes to possible 2024 run in White House remarks Trump threatens to veto defense bill over tech liability shield Tiger King's attorney believes they're close to getting pardon from Trump 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.


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 MooreDemocrats accuse Kushner of 'casual racism' over comments about Black Americans Lawmakers urge IRS to get stimulus payments to domestic violence survivors Texas Democrat: US natural gas vital in transition to renewables 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 NealBiden names Janet Yellen as his Treasury nominee Overnight Health Care: Trump announces two moves aimed at lowering drug prices | Sturgis rally blamed for COVID-19 spread in Minnesota | Stanford faculty condemn Scott Atlas Trump announces two moves aimed at lowering drug prices 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.