California Sues Country's Largest Nursing Home Chain
Lawsuit claims nursing home company submitted false information to the ratings program
TUESDAY, March 16, 2021 (HealthDay News) -- California is suing the largest nursing home chain in the United States for allegedly submitting false information to the Medicare nursing home ratings system.
The lawsuit against Brookdale Senior Living -- which operates multiple nursing homes in California -- was filed on Monday, The New York Times reported. It is one of the first lawsuits to accuse a nursing home company of submitting false information to the ratings program that was introduced more than a decade ago for the nation's more than 15,000 nursing homes. The system issues stars -- 1 is the worst, 5 is the best -- to nursing homes, which they use to attract potential residents.
California prosecutors said that until April 2018, Brookdale won "undeserved higher star ratings" by exaggerating the number of hours that registered nurses worked. The prosecutors said Brookdale had continued to game the statistics even after the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) improved how it collected staffing data to crack down on nursing homes inflating their figures, The Times reported. Starting in 2018, CMS began using payroll records to calculate nursing homes' ratings, rather than relying on nursing homes to report the amount of time nurses spent with patients. In the California lawsuit, prosecutors accused Brookdale of "falsifying its payroll-based journals."
Prosecutors also accused Brookdale of illegally evicting or transferring residents so that the chain could "fill its beds with residents who will bring in more money." In one instance highlighted in the suit, prosecutors said Brookdale discharged a 78-year-old resident who suffered from heart and kidney disease without even removing his catheter, The Times reported.
The lawsuit seeks civil penalties and an injunction to prevent future unlawful conduct. A Brookdale spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment, The Times said.