Two New York nurses who worked for Home & Community Based Care, the nursing home subsidiary of Catholic Health in Buffalo, have received large settlements for informing the government that their employer was billing Medicaid and Medicaid for unnecessary speech, occupational, and physical therapy provided to residents at three of its nursing homes between 2007-2014. The health group owes $6 million to the federal government, with $990,000 to be split among the two nurses who tipped off authorities to their employer’s scheme. The False Claim Act entices whistleblowers by guaranteeing a portion of the settlement to those who bravely come forward to report illegal billing.
Catholic Health, a non-profit health system that serves western New York, was founded 19 years ago and includes hospitals, primary care, ob/gyn, and specialist health centers, 4 nursing homes (3 of which were involved in the billing scandal), drug and alcohol addiction services, physical, occupational and speech therapy and rehabilitation services.
Changing Nursing Home Name Can Hide Prior Violations
The nursing homes found guilty of unnecessarily treating patients were Father Baker Manor in Buffalo, McAuley Residence in Kenmore, and St. Francis in Williamsville. Shortly after a lawsuit was announced, Catholic Health sold off St. Francis of Williamsville to a group of Long Island investors who specialize in nursing homes. In February, our blog discussed how the sale of a nursing home is not an indicator that resident care, safety, or treatment will improve. New ownership doesn’t necessarily mean new management, new staff or new policies. Often times a nursing home will change hands and the name will change, but little else is improved upon.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) operates a nursing home database that serves as a benchmarking and basic research tool for nursing homes. The site, called Nursing Home Compare, indicates safety violations, fines, and government inspection data, but here’s a glitch: If a nursing home has changed names, any former data related to that nursing home disappears with the old name.
As experts in the field of nursing home abuse and neglect law, the lawyers of Levin & Perconti always encourage families to use Nursing Home Compare when searching for a nursing home to care for a loved one. However, it can be extremely helpful to find others with a loved one in the facility and ask questions about their experience. If that means asking nursing home admissions staff for references, do not be afraid to speak up.
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