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CMS warns nursing homes against seizing residents' stimulus checks

CMS warns nursing homes against seizing residents' stimulus checks
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The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) said Thursday that nursing homes that confiscate residents' coronavirus stimulus payments could be subject to federal enforcement actions, including possible removal from participating in Medicaid and Medicare programs.

CMS said in a news release that it is aware of allegations that some nursing homes are demanding residents' payments, and that the practice is prohibited. The agency said that it has not received specific complaints about this practice but wants to inform nursing home residents of their rights while warning facilities of the potential consequences of seizing residents' checks.

CMS's message comes after state attorneys general have been reporting that they've had complaints of nursing homes and assisted-living facilities requiring residents on Medicaid to sign over their payments. Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle have been asking federal agencies to help protect residents, with House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard NealRichard Edmund NealLawmakers offer bipartisan bill to encourage retirement savings Democrats express concerns about IRS readiness for next year's filing season On The Money: Kudlow confident that Trump can 'round up' Senate GOP behind coronavirus relief deal | US deficit spikes to record .1T MORE (D-Mass.) and House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.) urging CMS to issue guidance to nursing homes and residents.

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CMS said that the confiscation of residents' checks could be considered misappropriation of resident property under federal regulations. Nursing homes that require residents to sign over their payments could also be in violation of rules that give residents the right to manage their own financial affairs, the agency added.

CMS encouraged nursing home residents and their family members who were directed to turn over their stimulus checks to file complaints with their state survey agency and to contact their state attorney general.

Under legislation enacted in March, most Americans are entitled to one-time payments of up to $1,200 per adult and $500 per dependent child. The checks are advance payments of refundable tax credits, which means that they cannot count as income for Medicaid eligibility purposes.

Neal and Pallone said in a statement late Thursday that they were "relieved" to see CMS tell nursing homes that they are barred from taking residents' payments.

“We’re relieved CMS heeded our concerns and issued clear guidance prohibiting this unlawful practice," the lawmakers said in a joint statement. "Predatory facilities are now on notice that there will be forceful repercussions if they attempt to seize their residents’ economic impact payments. Seniors and their families are struggling immensely during this crisis – we hope today’s news offers them some assurance.”

- updated at 10:16 a.m. on June 12.