Federal authorities are investigating Emeritus' Medicaid billings, ProPublica reports

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Federal investigators have been looking into Medicaid billing practices at senior living giant Emeritus Corp. for more than a year. Investigative journalism outlet ProPublica first reported the story Thursday, and an Emeritus spokeswoman confirmed to McKnight's that the probe is occurring.

The news takes on added significance because Emeritus is engaged in a $2.8 billion merger with Brookdale Senior Living. The combined company would be the nation's largest senior living company.

An official at Emeritus provided information about the federal probe, which is focused on Medicaid billing and other “business dealings,” ProPublica reporter A.C. Thompson wrote Thursday.

Thompson was one of the journalists behind last year's high-profile exposé on Emeritus, which focused on instances of improper care in assisted living facilities. One of these cases, involving a resident with multiple pressure ulcers who died, resulted in a $23 million verdict against Emeritus.

The federal investigation, reportedly involving both the Department of Justice and the Department of Health and Human Services Office of the Inspector General, began in January 2013, according to Thompson. 

Emeritus is fully cooperating in the inquiry but cannot publicly comment or discuss information that might "compromise or influence" the investigators, Vice President of Product Development and Communications Karen Lucas told McKnight's.

"We also believe that allegations such as ProPublica's in the midst of a government inquiry are inappropriate and premature," Lucas added. "As I stated to ProPublica earlier this week, such inquiries in this day and age are common and not determinative of anything." 

On a conference call regarding the Emeritus merger, Brookdale CEO T. Andrew Smith said his company “looked deeply” into the issues raised by the documentary. Brookdale was satisfied by Emeritus' response to the program and is “quite comfortable” moving forward with the acquisition, Smith said.

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