CHICAGO, IL – In March, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced the creation of a specialized task force who would be investigating “grossly substandard care” in nursing homes across the United States with both criminal and civil penalties on the table for owners and operators. On March 3 when the DOJ made the announcement, approximately 30 facilities in nine states were under investigation.
The initiative became overshadowed by the COVID-19 pandemic; however, lawyers have emphasized that the initiative is one of several possible venues for government officials to enforce acts of abuse and neglect in nursing home facilities – actions that could be guided by the COVID-19 nursing home data that facilities are required to submit.
On top of the DOJ initiative, the Office of Inspector General (OIG) is reviewing multiple facets of nursing home operations that include the following according to Skilled Nursing News:
- Medicaid nursing home life-safety and emergency preparedness reviews
- Audits of nursing home compliance with COVID-19 reporting requirements
- Why COVID-19 had the effect it did on the hardest hit facilities
- Infection prevention and control programs in nursing homes
- Nursing home oversight
According to Brian McGovern, a partner at Crowell & Moring mentioned this is “the perfect storm for a potential wave of lawsuits for targeting facilities with a record in infection control surveys.”
Whistleblowers can also bring lawsuits forward under the False Claims Act (FCA) and seek to recover damages afforded under the act. FCA cases relate to the conduct of private companies that work with Medicare, Medicaid, and other public health funding sources.
The future for FCA cases is that the DOJ has rarely based allegations of the FCA liability on quality of care since it’s a regulatory issue rather than a law enforcement issue.