Task forces to probe elder abuse in Ohio

Effort designed to hold ‘bad actors’ accountable in nursing home industry.

Each task force is designed to hold “bad actors in the nursing home and long-term care industry accountable for their treatment of the elderly,” Benjamin Mizer, principal deputy assistant attorney general, said at a press conference in Washington.

The task forces are modeled after the joint federal and state investigation in 2014 that led to a $38 million settlement between Extendicare Health Services and eight states — including Ohio.

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, whose office played a role in the 2014 investigation, hailed Wednesday’s announcement, saying “it is essential that state, local and federal agencies work together to look after elderly residents’ best interests and hold accountable those who failed in their duty to protect these vulnerable citizens.”

Keesha Mitchell, director of the Ohio Medicaid Fraud Control Unit and president of the National Association of Medicaid Fraud Control Units, said the task forces will allow state and federal governments to better coordinate the investigations “to protect” seniors in nursing homes.

The Ohio task force Ohio will be established in the southern district, which includes Columbus, Dayton and Cincinnati. The other task forces will be spread across nine other states.

Extendicare signed the settlement agreement in 2014 even as company officials denied the allegations. According to the settlement, Extendicare provided “worthless” or “materially substandard” service at 33 nursing homes, including six in Ohio.

The settlement said Extendicare “submitted false claims” to Medicare between 2007 and last year, charging the company demanded payment for “medically unreasonable and unnecessary rehabilitation therapy services” provided to Medicare beneficiaries at the 33 facilities.

The six Ohio nursing homes included one in Hamilton County and another one in Madison County. None of the others were in the Dayton, Springfield or Hamilton areas.

The allegations originally were raised through a lawsuit in Ohio. Extendicare operates 146 skilled nursing facilities in 11 states.

“The department worked closely with other agencies and state governments to reach this resolution,” Mizer said of the 2014 settlement.

Each task force will include federal, state and local prosecutors, officials of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and state Medicaid fraud units.

“Bringing all of these entities together will provide more tools to address complaints about nursing home or other long-term care providers,” Mizer said.