LOS ANGELES (CNS) - Los Angeles and state officials today announced a $3.25 million settlement to resolve a lawsuit against the country's largest senior living facility operator, who was accused of ignoring laws regarding discharging patients and reporting false information to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.
The suit, which was filed by a coalition that included Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer and California Attorney General Rob Bonta, alleged that Tennessee-based Brookdale Senior Living Inc. -- which operates 10 skilled nursing facilities in California -- gave false information to CMS to misrepresent quality of care and increase ``star ratings'' to attract prospective patients and their families.
``Our coalition's success against the nation's largest senior living operator sends a strong message to every nursing home in California: Treat your patients well, tell the truth about the care you provide to them and discharge them with dignity -- or we'll hold you accountable,'' Feuer said.
The plaintiffs also alleged that Brookdale failed to notify its patients and families of transfers and discharges in accordance with the law, which requires notice at least 30 days or as soon as practicable. Instead, the suit alleges, Brookdale patients' health was endangered and families were left scrambling to find other places to provide care to their loved ones.
``Skilled nursing facilities should always provide their residents with the highest standard of care. Instead, Brookdale put seniors and people with disabilities at risk, and misled prospective residents and their families about the quality of its California facilities,'' Bonta said. ``My office is committed to protecting our most vulnerable communities. Today's settlement will hold Brookdale accountable by making certain that its California locations are in full compliance with the law and provide truthful information for Californians to use when choosing a facility for themselves or their loved ones.''
The settlement resolving the allegations was led by Kern County District Attorney Cynthia Zimmer. Brookdale is also required to stop engaging in the illegal practices alleged by the complaint, appoint a monitor to oversee compliance at its Kern County facility, and pay $2.4 million in civil penalties, $550,000 in costs and $300,000 to the Kern County Long Term Care Ombudsman.
A statement was not immediately available from Brookdale Senior Living, but on March 15, 2021, following the lawsuit's filing, the company denied any wrongdoing:
``We categorically deny that Brookdale engaged in intentional or fraudulent conduct. We are disappointed in the allegations against the skilled nursing industry,'' a Brookdale spokesperson said.
``Publicizing unproven allegations is reckless and undermines the public's confidence in a service necessary to the care of elderly individuals, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic,'' she said. ``Brookdale is dedicated to providing quality care to our residents and patients, and we take our mission of enriching the lives of those we serve seriously.''