For-profit nursing home operators that have previously settled Medicare fraud allegations are now under suspicion of misusing federal pandemic relief funding. 

A Washington Post analysis published Tuesday questioned payments to certain nursing homes being distributed through the Provider Relief Fund, which was authorized by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. About $10 billion from the fund has been dedicated directly to nursing homes to fight the coronavirus pandemic. 

Nursing home critics are “most concerned about for-profit companies, some owned by private equity and other investment firms, that in the past have slashed costs and cut staff to boost profit,” the report states. 

The nation’s largest nursing home association noted that the relief funding was “badly needed” during the health crisis and added that providers expect the government to release guidance on reporting and tracking of their spending. 

“For several months, all healthcare providers have been waiting for guidance on reporting and HHS’ approach to auditing and are anticipating significant oversight in the coming months,” Mike Cheek, American Health Care Association senior vice president of reimbursement policy, told the news organization. 

“We support reasonable efforts to ensure this federal aid has been properly directed to providers to cover costs associated with addressing COVID-19 and potential losses,” he added. 

The newspaper’s report stated that the funding came with few spending restrictions, noting that Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma said “there were no strings attached to the payments, so healthcare providers that are receiving these dollars can essentially spend that in any way they see fit.”

It also added that nursing home watchdog groups and industry stakeholders have previously called on the federal government to attach spending restrictions before distributing payments.