The federal government has pumped billions in aid from the CARES Act into nursing homes, which have been battered by the COVID-19 pandemic and need far more resources than they have in years past to provide care for their medically frail, almost-always elderly residents.
But as the amount in aid has risen, so has media scrutiny on the finances of nursing home chains, with The Intercept and IndyStar publishing separate deep dives into the financing mechanisms used by nursing home companies.
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has released several tranches of aid for nursing homes, including $4.9 billion in May specifically for SNFs and an additional $5 billion announced in July that will be contingent on participation in an online COVID-19 training program. HHS has also released rounds of aid for providers based on Medicare and Medicaid revenues, into which nursing home operators can also tap.
The story in The Intercept dealt most directly with COVID-19 relief as issued by the federal government, detailing how nursing homes connected with a major donor to President Trump’s re-election campaign received more than $27 million “in grants and loans” since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
That money included Paycheck Protection Program loans to nursing homes affiliated with Eliezer Scheiner, his partner Teddy Lichtschein and Scheiner’s company, TL Management.
The IndyStar, meanwhile, focused on how hospitals in Indiana have made use of funds from Medicaid supplemental payment programs that were intended to bolster payments to nursing homes. In particular, the outlet highlighted the fraud case involving nursing home operator American Senior Communities, which ended up filing suit in 2017 against several former executives over their involvement in a fraud, kickback, and money laundering scheme.
IndyStar had covered the way the state’s hospitals and health systems used supplemental payments before, with a major investigation into the funding system published as the COVID-19 pandemic began to gather steam across the country.
That issue remains controversial, with the proposed federal Medicaid Fiscal Accountability Regulation (MFAR) designed to curb the payment-boosting programs.
But the newest update focused on a 2016 report commissioned by American Senior Communities — which operates 78 nursing homes for Marion County’s public health agency in Indiana — indicating that the scope of the fraud the operator dealt with may have broader than what was detailed in the initial criminal case.
The report claimed that 25 people took part in almost two dozen schemes that defrauded the operator of at least $35 million; the criminal case that eventually ended in 2017 recovered $15.5 million, with five prosecuted.
IndyStar’s report was published on August 6, while the Intercept’s was published on August 8 with support from NursingHomeCrisis.org, a project of Social Security Works and Latinos for a Secure Retirement, according to the site’s about page.