The Department of Justice (DOJ) announced the creation of regional task forces whose objective will be to toughen enforcement against nursing homes providing substandard care. This initiative was launched in accordance with the DOJ’s Elder Justice Initiative and is expected to include members from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Medicaid Fraud Control Units, state and local prosecutor’s offices, Department of Health and Human Services, state Adult Protective Services, Long-Term Care Ombudsman, and law enforcement. These groups will come together to exchange information and share their concerns on substandard nursing homes with hopes of resolving these issues in a timely and effective manner.
Benjamin Mizer, Principle Deputy Assistant Attorney General, used the 2014 Extendicare Health Care Services case as an example of a similar collaboration that was successful. Extendicare and its subsidiary were billing Medicare and Medicaid for substandard nursing care, unnecessary rehabilitation therapies, not following protocol to prevent pressure ulcers and falls, and not having enough nurses to care for patients; the company was able to work with the federal government and eight states and settle the case for $38 million. The DOJ worked closely with other agencies and state governments in this case to come to an agreement and Mizer hopes to expand this model of federal-state collaboration through the task forces.
Mark Parkinson, CEO and President of the American Health Care Association released a statement criticizing the DOJ’s announcement, saying the task forces are a scheme in order to cut costs that could be life threatening to residents across the country. In his opposition he cited recent data from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services that show a decline in nursing home deficiencies. He continued to say that the task force is the result of a “flawed Medicare payment system” and that he does support payment reform to help service, but not at the expense of ignoring the improvement of nursing home care overall.
The hope is that these task forces will be helpful in ensuring that residents are receiving the proper care. Task forces are said to be launched in California, Georgia, Kansas, Kentucky, Iowa, Maryland, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Washington. It is not known whether the implementation of task forces will result in an increase in the number of investigations performed.
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