NEW YORK — Attorney General continues campaign targeting nursing home Medicaid diversions

Attorney General Letitia James (D, pictured at microphone) won a preliminary injunction that requires a nursing home company accused of committing more than $83 million in Medicare and Medicaid fraud to pay for an independent financial monitor.

The late July ruling came in addition to a court-appointed monitor assigned earlier to assess the ongoing quality of care at Centers Health Care facilities. A lawyer for the provider has accused James of trying to “weaponize” the monitor.

“Centers Health Care prides itself on its commitment to patient care,” said Jeffrey Jacomowitz in an email. “Centers denies the New York Attorney General’s allegations wholeheartedly and attempted to resolve this matter out of court. We will fight these spurious claims with the facts on our side.”

The financial monitor will scrutinize all transactions and funding flows, but James’ office will not be able to use any of the healthcare monitor’s findings in its case against the co-owners, per orders from Justice Melissa A. Crane. 

MINNESOTA — Good Sam parent pulls plug on second merger attempt with Fairview Health 

A planned merger of the parent companies of two of the largest not-for-profit senior living and care organizations in the country, announced in November, was called off in July after months of delays.

Sioux Falls, SD-based Sanford Health, under whose umbrella Evangelical Lutheran Good Samaritan Society operates, announced it was discontinuing the merger process with Minneapolis-based Fairview Health Services, which includes Ebenezer Senior Living, Minnesota’s largest senior living operator.

“The significant benefits we identified for a combined system with Fairview Health Services compelled us to exhaust all potential pathways to completing our proposed merger,” Sanford Health President and CEO Bill Gassen said in a statement. “However, without support for this transaction from certain Minnesota stakeholders, we have determined it is in the best interest of Sanford Health to discontinue the merger process.”

The two organizations had intended to unite under the Sanford name, with both entities remaining nonprofits and maintaining their own leaders and regional boards.

OREGON — Agency limits could be ‘wildly successful’

It’s unclear yet just how low pay rates might go under newly passed staffing agency cap legislation, or whether state action will be enough to bring some badly needed workers back in-house.

Lawmakers recently enacted legislation directing the state’s Health Licensing Office to create a process to investigate complaints about temporary staffing agencies. The office can impose fines and even revoke permission for an agency to operate within the state. 

The law also directs the state Health Authority to set allowable rates for staffing agencies. 

“Our healthcare system has a multitude of cost containment measures built into it except, until now, around temporary staffing,” Phil Bentley, CEO of the Oregon Health Care Association, told McKnight’s. The bill “addresses that imbalance.”

Steve Fogg, chief financial officer of Oregon-based Marquis Companies, remained “on the fence” about the legislation’s potential impact, noting that stakeholders still have to agree on a rate cap methodology.

“In my opinion, the primary goal of the rate cap is to ‘level the playing field’ in terms of how much we as facility operators can pay our permanent workers versus how much temp staffing agencies can pay their workforce,” Fogg told McKnight’s. “They do not have the same barriers, such as regulated rates and minimum staffing requirements, etc., that we do, which allows them to offer more dollars an hour upon hire. If the ultimate rate cap methodology solves this, then it will be wildly successful.”

The Health Authority will set multiple rates, based on categories such as geographic region, shift differential and healthcare setting. The caps won’t take effect until Jan. 1, 2025.

ARKANSAS — Nursing home destroyed by tornado honors ‘heroic’ staff and residents as it reopens

A nursing home obliterated by a powerful tornado reopened to residents in mid-August after a two-year rebuilding project.

Monette Manor Nursing Home was hit by a level EF4 tornado in December 2021. It leveled the facility and resulted in the death of one resident and injuries to dozens more.

Staff were hailed in the national media as heroes for their efforts that night to shield residents during the storm and for immediately moving into triage-mode the moment the storm passed. Despite their efforts to save lives, there was no hope that the staff could have saved the building, parts of which were leveled. 

“There was no doubt it was completely, completely destroyed, and we would have to rebuild,” Monette Manor Co-owner Rick Sampson told McKnight’s on the one-year anniversary of the storm.

Monette Manor was originally constructed in 1975. The new facility features wider hallways, larger rooms, an open-style dining room and a day room, a larger therapy department and a beauty salon. A cedar pavilion in a courtyard will memorialize those who were in the old building when it was destroyed.