DOJ Files False Claims Suit Against Nursing Homes Over “Substandard Services and Nonexistent” Care
By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law
On June 15, 2022, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced it has sued three nursing homes in Ohio and Pennsylvania, citing their “grossly substandard skilled nursing services.” The False Claims Act (FCA) complaint against the American Health Foundation (AHF), its affiliate AHF Management Corporation, and three nursing homes alleges the facilities fraudulently billed the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) for often “nonexistent care.”
According to the complaint, all three AHF nursing homes not only provided substandard nursing home care services that failed to meet required standards of care but also did not maintain adequate staffing levels between 2016 and 2018.
Click here to view the complaint filed by the DOJ in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.
FCA Violations For “Substandard or Nonexistent Care.”
The government alleged AHF Management and its entities violated the FCA stemming from reimbursements for “grossly substandard” care provided at the Cheltenham, Wilmington Place, and Samaritan nursing homes.
“The defendants knowingly submitted, or caused the submission of, false claims to Medicare and Medicaid for nursing home care and services that were blatantly substandard or nonexistent,” the complaint read. “The Medicare and Medicaid programs provided reimbursement for the claims, but these payments were by mistake as CMS didn’t know the true and full extent of the defendants’ failure to provide patients with proper treatment and care.”
Alleged Patient Conditions and Mistreatment.
Examples of the appalling conditions described in the complaint included housing elderly and medically vulnerable patients in “pest-infested” buildings whose belongings were often stolen; giving residents unnecessary medications, including antibiotic, anti-psychotic, anti-anxiety, and hypnotic drugs; subjecting residents to verbal abuse; neglecting to provide residents with activities or stimulation, and failing to provide needed psychiatric care.
Additionally, the complaint outlines the suicide of a resident who was admitted with a history of self-harm and was later hospitalized after slashing his wrists but still was not provided psychiatric services. Tragically, just weeks after readmission, the resident committed suicide by hanging himself from a bedsheet in a shower room, justice officials said.
“Nursing homes are expected to provide their residents, which include some of our most vulnerable individuals, with quality care and to treat them with dignity and respect,” said Assistant Attorney General Brian M. Boynton, head of the DOJ’s Civil Division in a statement. He continued, “the department will not tolerate nursing homes, or their owners or managing entities, who abdicate these responsibilities and seek taxpayer funds to which they are not entitled.”
To read the DOJ’s press release in full on the case, click here.
The United States’ complaint stems from an investigation that the DOJ initiated as part of its “National Nursing Home Initiative.” The department launched the initiative in March 2020 to identify and investigate nursing homes that provide grossly substandard care.
Click here to learn more about the Justice Department’s nursing home initiative.
The case is United States v. American Health Foundation Inc., case number 2:22-cv-02344, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.
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D’Annunzio, P.J. “Feds Hit Nursing Home With FCA Suit Over ‘Nonexistent’ Care.” Law360. (June 15, 2022). Web.
Marceas, Kimberly. ‘Grossly substandard’ care leads to False Claims charges for Ohio-based nursing home operator. McKnights Long Term Care News. (June 16, 2022). Web.
“Nursing Homes Face DOJ False Claims Suit Over Standards of Care.” Bloomberg Law. (June 15, 2022). Web.
About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law is an attorney with The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Avenue, Suite 1000, Altamonte Springs, Florida 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620 or Toll-Free: (888) 331-6620.
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