Yesterday, the Department of Justice launched 10 regional task forces aimed at identifying fraud at nursing homes that provide inferior care to elderly residents. Referred to as the Elder Justice Task Forces, the DOJ plans to launch the 10 regional task forces in the following districts across the country:
- Northern District of California
- Northern District of Georgia
- District of Kansas
- Western District of Kentucky
- Northern District of Iowa
- District of Maryland
- Southern District of Ohio
- Eastern District of Pennsylvania
- Middle District of Tennessee
- Western District of Washington
The Elder Justice Task Forces will include individuals from the state Medicaid Fraud Control Units, state prosecutors’ offices, the US Attorneys’ Offices, the Department of Health and Human Services, Long-Term Care Ombudsman programs, state Adult Protective Services agencies, and local law enforcement. The task forces are organized by the DOJ’s Elder Justice Initiative, a more robust coordinated effort to protect the elderly population.
The launch of the Elder Justice Task Forces could give rise to increased False Claims Act liability for nursing homes under a “worthless services” theory of liability. Under a “worthless services” theory of FCA liability, the government would argue that a provider makes a false claim when the provider bills the government for a service that the provider knows has no value. Such theories have been used in cases where allegations exist that patients were provided a grossly substandard quality of care. By coordinating government resources through the Elder Justice Task Forces, it is likely that the government will uncover more fraud on its own than having to rely on whistleblowers coming forward and filing qui tam cases. It is prudent that nursing homes in these jurisdictions consider the quality of their documentation of services and the care provided at their facilities, as the facilities are likely to face increased scrutiny.
Upon the announcement of the 10 regional Elder Justice Task Forces, Acting Associate Attorney General Stuart F. Delery said that “[A]ll too often we have found nursing home owners or operators who put their own economic gain before the needs of their residents. These task forces will help ensure that we are working closely with all relevant parties to protect the elderly.”
For more information on the Elder Justice Task Forces and the Elder Justice Initiative, click here.