State set­tles with nurs­ing home firm

Sunday Star - - MARYLAND - By SA­VAN­NAH WIL­LIAMS and BROOKS DUBOSE Cap­i­tal News Ser­vice

ANNAPOLIS — The state of Mary­land on Thurs­day an­nounced a $2.2 mil­lion set­tle­ment in its suit against the own­ers of Neiswanger Man­age­ment Ser­vices, a nurs­ing home com­pany that rou­tinely dis­charged pa­tients when their Medi­care cov­er­age ran out and they had no in­come for fur­ther care.

Cap­i­tal News Ser­vice ran a se­ries in Septem­ber 2016, called “Dis­charg­ing Trou­ble,” that shared the sto­ries of sev­eral pa­tients who, at the end of their cov­er­age, had been left at the doorstep of un­li­censed as­sisted liv­ing homes where they al­leged they were as­saulted and robbed.

Fol­low­ing the se­ries, the Mary­land At­tor­ney Gen­eral’s of­fice filed suit against the com­pany, which ran five nurs­ing homes in the state, but ac­counted for about 67 per­cent of the state’s in­vol­un­tary pa­tient-dis­charges be­tween Jan­uary 2015 and May 2016, ac­cord­ing to a com­plaint filed as part of the law­suit.

There were 225 other nurs­ing homes in the state at the time, ac­cord­ing to the doc­u­ment.

“Each year, NMS un­law­fully evicts from its nurs­ing fa­cil­i­ties hun­dreds of frail, infirm, men­tally ill, and phys­i­cally and in­tel­lec­tu­ally dis­abled peo­ple,” At­tor­ney Gen­eral Brian Frosh wrote in the com­plaint.

Frosh then ar­gued that by dis­charg­ing pa­tients in “un­fair or un­safe” ways, the com­pany di­rectly vi­o­lated pro­vi­sions of re­ceiv­ing Med­i­caid, which pro­hibits nurs­ing homes from tak­ing pay­ments for some pa­tients while im­prop­erly dis­charg­ing oth­ers.

The state asked the court to charge the com­pany $10,000 per Med­i­caid claim it filed in the 16-month pe­riod.

Neiswanger filed a coun­ter­suit in March 2018, al­leg­ing the com­pany was be­ing un­fairly tar­geted by state of­fi­cials, Cap­i­tal News Ser vice re­ported.

Frosh said this would be dis­missed as a term of the set­tle­ment.

In a state­ment Fri­day, Ian Prior, a spokesman for Neiswanger Man­age­ment Ser­vices wrote, “The State of Mary­land has agreed to walk away from its sup­posed block­buster of a law­suit against NMS, throw­ing in the towel for a tiny frac­tion of what it orig­i­nally de­manded. … What the State re­ally gets is this: NMS will drop its re­tal­i­a­tion law­suit against top State of­fi­cials, spar­ing them from the em­bar­rass­ment of a trial.”

Frosh spokes­woman Raquel Coombs said the set­tle­ment “sends an ap­pro­pri­ate, ad­di­tional mes­sage that this type of con­duct is in­hu­mane and un­ac­cept­able.”

“As a re­sult of its egre­gious con­duct, NMS is no longer in busi­ness in Mary­land and is per­ma­nently pro­hib­ited from re­turn­ing to busi­ness,” Coombs said, adding that “no ad­di­tional frail, vul­ner­a­ble pa­tients will be harmed.”

“They were very bad ac­tors; they were tak­ing ad­van­tage of the most vul­ner­a­ble in our state,” Frosh said in an in­ter view with Cap­i­tal News Ser vice this week. “They were not pro­vid­ing a level of care that they should have pro­vided.”

He said the com­pany had al­ready stopped of­fer­ing nurs­ing home care when they reached a set­tle­ment, but the state wanted to con­tinue pros­e­cut­ing the own­ers of Neiswanger Man­age­ment Ser­vices.

“The point is, these guys were cheat­ing the state, and they were en­dan­ger­ing the lives of the peo­ple who were in their care, so they are no longer do­ing busi­ness as NMS,” Frosh said.

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