Justice News

Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Benjamin C. Mizer Delivers Remarks on Elder Justice Task Force Roll Out
Washington, DC
United States
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Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Good afternoon and thank you all for being here.  I am pleased to be joined by Keesha Mitchell, President of the National Association of Medicaid Fraud Control Units and Director of the Ohio Medicaid Fraud Control Unit; Gregory Demske, Chief Counsel to the Inspector General for the Department of Health and Human Services; Becky Kurtz, Director of the Office of Long-Term Care Ombudsman with the Administration on Community Living; Kathleen Quinn, Executive Director of the National Adult Protective Services Association and many other federal, state, and local partners here in the room and on the phone.

Today we are announcing the launch of 10 Elder Justice Task Forces.  These regional teams will bring together federal, state and local prosecutors, law enforcement, and agencies that provide services to the elderly, for the purpose of coordinating and enhancing efforts to identify and bring to justice nursing homes that provide grossly substandard care to their residents.  These Task Forces are built on the model of cooperation and collaboration among multi-disciplinary teams currently at work in several Districts.  Protecting our nation’s seniors is one of the department’s highest priorities, and we are fortunate to have dedicated partners committed to holding bad actors in the nursing home and long-term care industry accountable for their treatment of the elderly. 

The Department of Justice has not hesitated to bring actions against nursing home operators who failed to provide Medicare and Medicaid nursing home residents with the services to which they are entitled.  For example, in 2014, the United States and eight states settled with Extendicare Health Services Inc., to resolve allegations which included that it had billed Medicare and Medicaid while failing to have a sufficient number of skilled nurses to care adequately for its residents, failing to provide adequate catheter care to some of its residents and failing to follow the appropriate protocols to prevent pressure ulcers and resident falls.  In addition to paying back $38 million to the taxpayers, Extendicare entered into a five-year company-wide Corporate Integrity Agreement that required it to hire an Independent Quality Monitor to oversee the quality of its skilled nursing care, among other things.  The department worked closely with other agencies and state governments to reach this resolution, and it illustrates just what can be accomplished when cross-government resources are harnessed in a coordinated fashion.  I would like to commend our state partner, Keesha Mitchell, for the efforts of the Medicaid Fraud Control Units in working tirelessly with the department to achieve this successful result.    

The 10 regional Elder Justice Task Forces will build and expand on this model of federal-state cooperation.  The Elder Justice Task Forces will include representatives from the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices, state Medicaid Fraud Control Units, state and local prosecutors’ offices, the Department of Health and Human Services, state Adult Protective Service agencies, Long-Term Care Ombudsman programs and law enforcement.  By assembling these organizations and entities on a regular basis and building strong lines of communication, we expect to share information and concerns much more quickly and to take action in a more coordinated and timely manner.  The multidisciplinary nature of the task forces will assist in identifying nursing facilities that provide grossly substandard care, drawing on the various team members’ access to an array of information and knowledge in the regions and communities where the nursing facilities operate.

In addition, bringing all of these entities together will provide more tools to address complaints about nursing home or other long term care providers.  Having federal, state and local agencies working together will allow the task forces to find the most effective response for each particular situation.

The Elder Justice Task Forces will be launched in 10 districts, including the 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 and the Western District of Washington. 

I want to thank all of those partners here today who have committed and will commit time and resources to protecting our nation’s seniors through these task forces.  With that, I am happy to introduce Keesha Mitchell, President of the National Association of Medicaid Fraud Control Units, who will describe the role of Medicaid Fraud Control Units in the Task Forces.