A high-profile scandal involving a now-defunct Maryland nursing home chain has prompted legislation that Attorney General Brian E. Frosh (D) said will protect current and future nursing home residents from mistreatment.
Frosh told lawmakers last week that his office has worked with the association that represents Maryland nursing homes on legislation that would broaden the consumer protections that already exist.
The bills — SB 669 and HB 592 — would require that nursing home residents be treated in a “fair” and “humane” manner when being transferred from one facility to another, and that they be given the opportunity to participate in decisions involving their care.
The legislation was crafted in the wake of reports in 2016 involving NMS Healthcare, a firm accused of “dumping” vulnerable patients far from home and without proper care or advanced notice.
Frosh told the Senate Finance Committee on Thursday that his office obtained documents during its lawsuit against the firm that proved the company pressured its employees to discharge residents who moved from one form of public assistance to another.
“The chain that we pursued, NMS, had about 2 percent of the nursing home beds in the state,” Frosh testified.
“And they vigorously pursued every instance in which — when somebody was moving off Medicare reimbursement, which is about $550 a day, to Medicaid reimbursement, which is about $250 — they tried to get them out and replace them with somebody on Medicare.”
The attorney general quoted from the documents obtained during discovery.
One email, apparently sent from a manager to staff personnel, said, “Your discharge planner needs to understand this. Get those Medicaids non-dialysis out today.”
Workers were also told: “Please discharge any HMOs not on dialysis.”
“I hope everyone finds this useful!!,” the email concluded. “HAPPY DISCHARGING.”
Frosh and other supporters of the bill said residents were often driven places they had never been before (West Virginia, in one case), with no advanced warning, no treatment plan and no communication with family.
One resident was placed in a storage unit during the heat of summer, a Washington County sheriff’s deputy told the panel.
Another resident — a West Virginia woman who was driven to Baltimore, a city she had never been to before — had her benefits card taken and used by the woman who dropped her off there.
“What this bill will do is require that [nursing home] residents who need medical care are transferred to facility that can meet their needs,” Frosh said.
Joseph DeMattos Jr., president of Health Facilities Association of Maryland, an industry group, also urged lawmakers to pass the legislation.
He said the NMS case still keeps him up at night.
“There are 230 skilled nursing rehab centers in Maryland. Each year they provide 9 million days of care,” he told the Finance Committee.
NMS “provided care — horrible care — to 2 percent of the [state’s] Medicaid beneficiaries and had 70 percent of the complaints.”
After the attorney general’s office filed suit against the firm, Frosh said NMS agreed to pay a $2.2 million settlement and now is prohibited from operating nursing homes in Maryland.
The legislation has received preliminary approval in the House but has not been moved out of the Senate Finance Committee yet.