AHA Wants Congress To Pressure CMS To Reverse Updates For Inpatient Payment Rule

CMS issues first price transparency fines to 2 Georgia hospitalsSource: Fierce Healthcare, by Robert King

The American Hospital Association (AHA) is turning to lawmakers to pressure the Biden administration to change “woefully inadequate” payment rates proposed for next year.

 

The AHA sent a letter Friday to congressional leaders surrounding the proposed Inpatient Prospective Payment Systems (IPPS) rule, which sets inpatient rates for next year. The hospital lobbying group charged that facilities are facing major challenges not just from the pandemic.

“Historic inflation has extended and heightened the already severe economic instability brought on by the pandemic resulting in razor-thin operating margins from massive surges in input costs, including a struggling workforce, drug costs, supplies and equipment,” the letter said.

 
 

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) had proposed a market basket update of 3.2% to Medicare payments for the 2023 federal fiscal year that begins this fall. This was on top of a 2.7% payment update for 2022. The proposed rule released in April calls for a proposed 0.4 percentage point productivity adjustment.

AHA contends that the market basket and productivity update don’t reflect the major inflation jump and growth in expenses.

“More recent data shows the market basket for [fiscal year] 2022 is trending toward 4%, well above the 2.7% CMS actually implemented last year,” the group wrote. “Additionally, the latest data also indicate decreases in productivity, not gains.”

Medicare Could Save Billions Buying Generic Drugs At Mark Cuban’s Prices

Medicare drug prices: The U.S. could save billions on generics buying at Mark  Cuban prices, study findsSource: NBC News, by Berkeley Lovelace Jr.

How can the U.S. government lower the high price of prescription drugs? It may need to look to tech entrepreneur Mark Cuban for answers.

Medicare could have saved nearly $4 billion in 2020 by purchasing generic drugs at the same prices offered by Cost Plus Drug Company, Cuban’s online pharmacy that launched this year, according to a study published Monday in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine.

 

Cost Plus Drug offers certain generic drugs, such as the depression drug fluoxetine or blood pressure medication lisinopril, at discounted prices, by selling medications at a fixed markup of 15% plus a $3 flat fee, according to the company’s website. Cost Plus doesn’t offer brand-name drugs or accept insurance, so patients pay for medications out of pocket.

The study “does show that Medicare is overpaying for some of the generic drugs,” said Dr. Hussain Saleem Lalani, a researcher at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and the study’s lead author. “And this is a conservative estimate, so the actual savings are likely higher.”

Researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital compared the price of 89 generic drugs sold by Cost Plus Drug in 2022 to the price paid by Medicare Part D plans in 2020. Medicare Part D provides coverage for a wide range of prescription drugs, including for self-administered drugs, such as for those to control high blood pressure or diabetes.

After adjusting for changes in drug costs between 2020 and 2022, the researchers found that Medicare paid more on 77 generic drugs: $8.1 billion compared with $4.5 billion if Medicare had purchased the drugs at the same prices as Cost Plus.

Only 12 drugs did not appear to offer any savings.

The researchers did not account for out-of-pocket costs for Medicare enrollees, meaning it was unclear how much lower their cost at the pharmacy counter would have been had Medicare purchased the drugs at a lower price.

The findings illustrate the need for policy reform, the authors wrote.

Medicare “could save a lot more money if it had stricter policies on how it paid for drugs,” Lalani said. “There’s a lot more reforms that could be done to optimize the generic drug pricing system, and we should really consider doing those things to lower costs for patients,” he said.

Price negotiation a ‘black box’

Lalani said the study had limitations: Researchers could only compare prices for drugs that were sold by Cost Plus Drug, which represent 25% of the approximately $38 billion in Medicare Part D generic drug spending in 2020.

Juliette Cubanski, deputy director of the program on Medicare policy at the Kaiser Family Foundation, said the study certainly raised the question of whether Medicare plans are leaving money on the table, and could be getting better deals on drugs. She was not involved in the research.

Right now, price negotiation is “just a completely black box. There’s not a lot of transparency,” she said.

“We’re kind of putting the burden on the patients to chase down lower prescription drug prices as opposed to kind of finding ways to make them widely accessible,” she said.

However, making changes that could tackle the problems of generic drug pricing has not been the primary focus of policymakers, Cubanski said. That’s because the kinds of medications patients usually struggle to pay for are brand-name drugs.

Democrats, in particular, have pushed for laws that allow Medicare to directly negotiate prices of the most expensive drugs, which is currently prohibited.

“Saving $3.6 billion is certainly worth pursuing if there’s an opportunity to get that amount of savings,” she said. But most of the dollars from Medicare “are going to higher-priced, brand name and specialty drugs.”

Lalani, who led the study, said it underscores the need for a closer look at our prescription drug pricing system, which includes wholesalers, pharmacy benefit managers, pharmacies and insurers.

Survey: 13% Of Medicare Advantage Claims, Prior Authorization Requests Denied

Survey shows 13% of Medicare Advantage enrollees had a claim or pre-authorization  request denied | Healthcare Finance NewsSource: Fierce Healthcare, by Robert King

A recent survey of Medicare Advantage enrollees found 13% had a claim or pre-authorization request denied as the program has gotten scrutiny over its prior authorization practices.

 

The survey, released Monday by the online insurance marketplace eHealth, also found that 67% of respondents chose MA over Medigap due to concerns over its affordability. The MA market has become an increasingly lucrative one for insurers, as projections expect enrollment to surpass traditional Medicare in the coming years.

“As demonstrated in this report, we found that a striking majority of Medicare Advantage enrollees are satisfied with their plans,” the survey said.

EHealth’s survey of more than 2,800 MA enrollees last month showed that a large majority (77%) did not have their claims or prior authorization requests denied, while 10% did not know and 13% reported they did have rejections.

Of the 13% who were denied coverage, 3% said they could not get a specific drug and 2% were for coverage visits.

“Those who experienced a self-reported denial of coverage include many who were declined for things like dental and vision care, which aren’t typically covered by Medicare,” the survey report said.

In addition, 43% of respondents who did have a claim or prior authorization request denied say their plan told them the claim was excluded from coverage. Another 15% said coverage was denied because the service wasn’t medically necessary.

But 15% of respondents who had a claim or request denied said that the insurer eventually paid it later.

The findings come amid increased scrutiny of MA insurers’ prior authorization practices. A report from the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Inspector General that analyzed 250 prior authorization denials and 250 payment denials from MA plans found the denials were sometimes for services that met Medicare coverage requirements.

For instance, 13% of prior authorization denials and 18% of payment declines were for services Medicare should cover.

 

The report comes as some lawmakers have criticized the MA program for driving up Medicare costs due to tactics to game risk adjustment scores and gain higher bonus payments.

EHealth’s report, however, showed that MA remains a very popular program with seniors. It found that 88% of respondents were satisfied with their coverage, and 63% were very satisfied.

One of the key benefits for the program is lower costs compared with Medigap plans as 67% of seniors said they chose MA because Medigap, which pays for supplement benefits not covered by traditional Medicare, was too expensive. Another 25% signed up with MA because Medigap did not offer drug coverage.

Medicare Recipients To See Premium Cut — But Not Until 2023

Medicare recipients to see premium cut — but not until 2023 - ABC News

Source: Associated Press

Medicare recipients will get a premium reduction — but not until next year — reflecting what Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra said Friday was an overestimate in costs of covering an expensive and controversial new Alzheimer’s drug.

Becerra’s statement said the 2022 premium should be adjusted downward but legal and operational hurdles prevented officials from doing that in the middle of the year. He did not say how much the premium would be adjusted.

Medicare Part B premiums jumped by $22 a month, to $170.10, for 2022, in part because of the cost of the drug Aduhelm, which was approved despite weak evidence that it could slow the progression of Alzheimer’s.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has limited coverage of Aduhelm to use in clinical trials approved by the Food and Drug Administration or the National Institutes of Health. It began reassessing the premium increase under pressure by Congress and consumers.

The drug’s manufacturer, Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Biogen, has cut the cost of the drug in half, to about $28,000 a year.

CMS cited the sharp reduction in the price of the drug and the limitations on coverage in concluding that cost savings could be passed on to Medicare beneficiaries. In a report to Becerra, the agency said the premium recommendation for 2022 would have been $160.40 a month had the price cut and the coverage determination both been in place when officials calculated the figure.

The premium for 2023 for Medicare’s more than 56 million recipients will be announced in the fall.

“We had hoped to achieve this sooner, but CMS explains that the options to accomplish this would not be feasible,” Becerra said. “CMS and HHS are committed to lowering health care costs — so we look forward to seeing this Medicare premium adjustment across the finish line to ensure seniors get their cost-savings in 2023.”

Employers Pay 224% Of Medicare Prices For Hospital Services

Employers pay 224% of Medicare prices for hospital services | BenefitsPRO

Source: BenefitsPRO, by Scott Wooldridge

Employer-sponsored health plans paid on average 224% of what Medicare paid to hospitals for the same services at the same facilities, according to a new study from RAND Corporation. The report covers billing for hospital inpatient and outpatient services in 2020.

The study said that there were significant variances in prices across states or geographic areas and added that the difference in cost seemed to be linked to hospital market share rather than hospitals’ share of Medicare and Medicaid patients.

The researchers found that in Hawaii, Arkansas, and Washington, relative prices were under 175% of Medicare, while other in states, such as Florida, West Virginia, and South Carolina, relative prices were at or above 310% of Medicare.

In addition, the study found that prices for COVID-19 hospitalization were similar to prices for overall inpatient admissions and averaged 241% of what was paid for Medicare patients.

“Employers can use this report to become better-informed purchasers of health benefits,” said Christopher Whaley, the study’s lead author and a policy researcher at RAND, a nonprofit research organization. “This work also highlights the levels and variation in hospital prices paid by employers and private insurers, and thus may help policymakers who may be looking for strategies to curb health care spending.”

Cost variation: a “defining characteristic” of US health care

The researchers described the wide variation in prices paid for medical services as “a defining characteristic of the U.S. health care system.”

In 2019, the study said, spending on hospital services accounted for 37% of total health care spending for privately insured Americans and came to approximately $434 billion. “Hospital price increases are key drivers of growth in per capita spending among the privately insured,” the study added.

RAND researchers found the difference between employer prices and Medicare prices was actually a bit lower since a previous study in 2018, when employers paid 247% of Medicare costs. The researchers said the change was because of an increase in claims among states that generally pay lower rates for hospital costs.

Transparency in pricing has been a challenge for the health care industry. Despite efforts by both providers and government regulators to create more transparency, both employers and consumers lack useful information on pricing. And the public data that does exist has gaps, due in part to the fact that many hospitals have not yet complied with recent regulatory requirements.

An Indiana case study: employer pressure lowered prices

The study concludes by looking at efforts in some states to address relatively high hospital prices. In Indiana, employers in the Fort Wayne area were able to prompt price changes at the Parkview Health System in that community, which the RAND study had identified as having some of the highest prices in the country.

“Equipped with information on negotiated prices, employers were able to place pressure on a large hospital system and TPAs to achieve lower prices for their workforce,” the study said. “Other employer and policymaker pressures in Indiana led the Indiana University Health system to announce plans to reduce prices to the national average rate.”

Hospital association response: “Unfounded conclusions”

The American Hospital Association (AHA), however, quickly released a statement saying the RAND conclusions were an over-reach and unfounded.

“The report looks at claims for just 2.2% of overall hospital spending, which, no matter how you slice it, represents a small share of what actually happens in hospitals and health systems in the real world,” said AHA President and CEO Rick Pollack. “Researchers should expect variation in the cost of delivering services across the wide range of U.S. hospitals – from rural critical access hospitals to large academic medical centers. Tellingly, when RAND added more claims as compared to previous versions of this report, the average price for hospital services declined.”

Lowering Medicare Age Comes With Big Price Tag

Democrats push bill to lower Medicare eligibility age to 60 - CNNPoliticsSource: Axios, by Adriel Bettelheim

Giving Americans over 60 access to Medicare would add about 7.3 million people to the program’s rolls and swell the budget deficit by $155 billion over a five-year period, the Congressional Budget Office and Joint Committee on Taxation project said in a new analysis.

Why it matters: While it’s a popular idea with voters, the big price tag illustrates why Medicare expansion isn’t gaining centrist support and remains a legislative long shot.

What they’re saying: Lowering the eligibility age would result in about 3.2 million fewer people having employer-sponsored health coverage, with most transferring to Medicare.

  • * That would put the federal government on the hook for a larger share of medical spending while lowering per-person spending for work-based health plans.
  • * The policy would halve the uninsured rate for the newly eligible group, from 8% to 4%.

Flashback: While President Biden didn’t initially run on expanding access to Medicare, he agreed to support lowering the age from 65 to 60 in April 2020, when his campaign worked on a unity platform with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).

  • * The idea lost traction as centrists led by Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) scaled back Biden’s social spending ambitions and the Build Back Better agenda.

Employers Pay Hospitals Billions More Than Medicare

How Much More Than Medicare Do Private Insurers Pay? A Review of the  Literature | KFF

Source: Axios, by Adriel Bettelheim and Caitlin Owens

Employers and private insurance plans in 2020 paid hospitals 224% of what Medicare paid for the same services, with rates for inpatient and outpatient care varying widely from site to site, a new report from RAND finds.

The intrigue: The report found that hospital prices had no significant correlation with hospitals’ share of Medicare and Medicaid patients, which hospitals say factor into private rates. Price did positively correlate with hospital market share.

Why it matters: Hospitals account for about 37% of health spending for the privately insured — and even people who don’t use hospital services foot some of the bill through their premiums.

The big picture: Annual per-person spending growth for workplace health coverage has exceeded spending growth for government programs in nine of the past 13 years, largely because enrollment and demand for services among the commercially insured has barely changed.

  • * The divergence in pricing has been linked to mergers and acquisitions, affiliation agreements and other consolidation that increases hospitals’ leverage.
  • * In 2021, the average premium cost of an employer-sponsored family plan was more than $22,000, an increase of 47% from 2011, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

What they found: The report draws on medical claims data from employers and state databases from 2018 to 2020 covering 4,102 hospitals and 4,091 ambulatory surgical centers that account for $78.8 billion of spending.

  • * States like Hawaii, Arkansas and Washington had relative prices below 175% of Medicare prices, while others including Florida, West Virginia and South Carolina had prices at or above 310% of Medicare levels.
  • * In 2020, COVID-19 inpatient hospitalizations averaged 241% of Medicare, which is similar to the relative price for all inpatient procedures.
  • * Prices for common outpatient services performed in ambulatory surgical centers such as imaging and colonoscopies averaged 162% of Medicare payments. However, Medicare pays the centers less than it pays hospital outpatient departments for the same services, the study notes, and the ratio would be lower if centers were paid the same way.
  • * Medicare per-procedure payments to hospital outpatient departments were 2.1 times higher than payments to ambulatory surgical centers and commercial payments were 2.6 times larger, the study found.
  • * If the same providers were paid Medicare rates for the same services, employers and private plans would have saved $49.9 billion, researchers said.

The other side: Hospitals say Medicare reimbursement rates are too low, so they have to charge privately insured patients more to make ends meet. The pandemic has also disrupted many hospital business models — for example, by forcing the cancellation of elective procedures.

The bottom line: Health costs are likely to keep rising for those with private insurance as employers use higher deductibles, copays and coinsurance to offset some of the rising costs.

  • * While employers back reforming how workplace health care is paid for, they don’t agree on many of the details or how significant changes would be.
  • * The more information about pricing disparities that becomes public, the more likely it is that pressure on hospitals to justify their prices will build.

NAHU CEO: ‘Medicare For All’ Moves From Congress To The States

NAHU CEO: 'Medicare For All' Moves From Congress To The States –  InsuranceNewsNet

Source: InsuranceNewsNet

Congress has backed off “Medicare for All” for the time being. But legislators in several states are now taking up the charge.

In California, Democrats call for “a universal, single-payer health care system” as part of their party platform. A bid to install such a system failed in the California Assembly at the end of January, but the Golden State’s leaders have promised to make another run at it.

At least a dozen other states are considering bills that would ban private health insurance and establish single-payer health care. That’s bad news for ordinary Americans. It makes little sense to force nine in 10 Americans off their current health plans as part of a drive to bring about universal coverage.

About two-thirds of insured Americans currently depend on private health insurance plans. About 177 million people receive coverage through an employer, and about 34 million people purchase private coverage directly.

A single-payer system could do away with all those plans.

Moreover, Americans like their private plans. In a recent study of people with employer-sponsored coverage, more than two-thirds said they were satisfied with their insurance. More than three-quarters felt confident it would protect them during a medical emergency.

Research by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that what support there is for single-payer declines when people consider its attendant consequences like higher taxes and treatment delays.

Analyses of specific state single-payer plans suggest the downsides would be severe.

The New York Health Act, for instance, would reduce employment in the Empire State by 315,000, according to research published last year by the Foundation for Research on Equal Opportunity. Another report found that if the bill became law, New York residents would have to pay some $250 billion in new taxes.

 

Further, single-payer will lead to lower-quality care. That’s because government payers rely on lower payments to hospitals and doctors to keep costs in check. Look no further than Medicare. The American Hospital Association says hospitals receive just 87 cents for every dollar they spend treating Medicare beneficiaries.

That’s obviously not sustainable. If a single-payer system — and its low payment rates — were adopted widely, doctors and hospitals would respond by reducing the supply of care they’re willing to provide.

That diminution of supply, combined with unlimited demand stoked by making health care free at the point of service, could lead to long waits.

Just ask the Congressional Budget Office. According to a recent CBO analysis, a single-payer system would result in more “unmet demand” for health care services, “greater congestion in the health care system” and “lower payment rates.”

Lawmakers in several states have responded to concerns like these by championing a supposedly more moderate public option — a government-run insurance plan that would supposedly compete against private options.

But any public option would also reimburse providers at lower rates than private plans do. The public plan would use that pricing power to set premiums and deductibles below those of private insurers. As people gravitated toward the cheaper public option, private insurers would gradually leave the market, until only the public plan remained.

A public option is just a slower way of introducing single-payer. And single-payer health care is a cure worse than the disease.

Janet Trautwein is CEO of the National Association of Health Underwriters. This piece originally ran in the Boston Herald.

Rising Google Searches For Procedures Suggest Recovering Demand, Analysts Say

Google Accused of Enabling Piracy With Images Search Feature | TimeSource: Healthcare Dive, by Nick Paul Taylor

Dive Brief:

  • * Searches on Google for 20 common, nonemergent procedures are above pre-pandemic levels, providing another data point that indicates demand is recovering, according to analysts at Needham.
  • * The analysts believe Google Trends data may indicate the level of consumer interest in certain procedures, leading them to track the resource to understand changes over time. U.S. searches for orthopaedic, general surgery and cardiovascular procedures were at 114%, 112% and 101% of their pre-pandemic levels, respectively, in the last analysis.
  • * Earlier analyses suggest the data may bode well for future sales at medical device companies. The data previously have correlated with medtech financial results, with slumps and rises in search numbers in step with drops and increases in revenue.

Dive Insight:

The most recent medtech industry earnings season was characterized by improving results. After struggling with the impact of omicron early in the year, many companies had a recovery in demand as the quarter progressed, leading some orthopaedic businesses to post sales that matched or topped pre-pandemic levels and businesses across the industry to report that the recovery continued into April.

Google search data potentially provides a window into what is coming next. The idea is that the search results show whether consumer interest is falling or rising and, in doing so, offer insights into future sales of medical devices.

The latest analysis found nonemergent procedure searches are up on both the pre-pandemic period, defined as the first seven weeks of 2020, and on a trailing 90-day basis. Over the 90 days through last week, Google searches for the 20 procedures tracked by the Needham analysts rose 8%, with hernia repair having the greatest improvement and nephrectomy faring the worst.

Searches related to orthopaedics, general surgery and cardiovascular procedures gained 12%, 6% and 9%, respectively, over the analyzed period. The figures are similar to the analysis covering the 90 days through the end of April, with orthopaedic searches decelerating by one percentage point and general surgery and cardiovascular gaining two percentage points and one percentage point, respectively.

The rise in orthopaedic searches over the past 90 days suggests the recovery in demand seen during the first three months of the year may have continued into the second quarter. Still, patient demand likely is just one of the forces that will shape results in the second quarter and after, company executives have said.

“We do expect that staffing pressure will continue to be a challenge throughout the year, just not as intense, I think, as what we thought when we started the year,” Zimmer Biomet CEO Bryan Hanson told analysts on a quarterly results conference call.

After the Pandemic Hit Nursing Homes Hard, California Lawmakers Push to Tighten Licensing Rules

Nursing home COVID copy 2_i.png

Source: Kaiser Health News, by Samantha Young

When Johanna Trenerry found a nursing home for her husband after his stroke, she expected his stay would be temporary.

He never came home.

Arthur Trenerry died at Windsor Redding Care Center in Northern California in October 2020. The 82-year-old great-grandfather is among more than 9,900 California nursing home residents who have died of covid-19.

The nursing home where Trenerry died is licensed by the state, but not under its current owner, Shlomo Rechnitz. The state denied Rechnitz a license, citing at least one death and multiple cases of “serious harm” at other nursing homes he owns or operates. To get around that, Rechnitz formed a business partnership with one of the home’s former owners, who continues to hold the facility’s license.

Some California lawmakers want to put an end to those types of business arrangements and ban people or entities from buying or operating nursing homes unless they have a license — which is the situation in most states. They’re also proposing an overhaul of the licensing process to reject applicants with poor performance and those without adequate experience or financial resources.

The ambitious effort, which the industry considers an overreach, could make California’s oversight the gold standard and a model for other states trying to improve nursing home care. Nationwide, more than 152,000 residents of nursing homes have died of covid during the pandemic, according to federal data.

“The public health emergency that we’ve experienced could be something that becomes a catalyst for making real change,” said Dr. Debra Saliba, a UCLA professor of medicine who served on a National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine committee that released a comprehensive report on nursing homes in April. “One of the things that we have right now is the determination, the resources to make things happen.”

In his State of the Union address in March, President Joe Biden said the quality of care had declined in nursing homes taken over by investors — and vowed to set higher federal standards. In anticipation of the speech, the White House released a proposal calling on Congress to boost funding for nursing home inspections and to give federal regulators the authority to deny Medicare funds to underperforming facilities. The administration also directed the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to propose minimum staffing standards within a year.

States are also taking steps to improve quality. New Jersey, for example, this year adopted a law that toughens penalties for health violations and requires nursing homes to disclose financial records.

In California, lawmakers are considering several proposals, including the changes to nursing home licensing rules.

Companies and individuals can buy or run nursing homes in California before they get a license, a process that even an industry lobbyist described at a legislative hearing this year as “backward” and unique to the state.

“In California, nursing home owners and operators can operate without a license even after they’ve been denied a license,” said state Assembly member Al Muratsuchi (D-Torrance), author of AB 1502. “Many of these owners and operators have, unfortunately, an extensive history of neglect and abuse.”

Muratsuchi’s bill would require an owner or company to apply for a license 120 days before buying or operating a nursing home and include financial records that contain the names of all owners and investors. The state would reject applicants who fail to meet standards for character, performance in other homes, and the financial ability to run the home. Homes operating without a license would lose Medicaid funding and couldn’t admit new residents.

The powerful California Association of Health Facilities, which represents more than 800 nursing homes, has blocked previous licensing legislation and has set its sights on Muratsuchi’s bill. The group is led by Craig Cornett, a veteran of the state Capitol who has worked for four Assembly speakers and two Senate leaders.

The organization has made just over $2 million in political contributions and spent $5.9 million lobbying lawmakers from Jan. 1, 2011, through March 31, 2022, according to records filed with the California secretary of state’s office.

The bill fails to consider the state’s “complex regulatory environments” and would create “extensive” disclosure requirements on ownership applications that “in many cases would fill an entire room with boxes and boxes of paper,” Jennifer Snyder, a lobbyist for the association, told lawmakers in January.

The measure would “eliminate the ability for most current owners in California to actually apply or even apply for a change of ownership,” she added.

But this year, the industry faces an altered political landscape.

Covid has pushed lawmakers to act — and Muratsuchi has gained a valuable co-sponsor for his bill, Democratic state Assembly member Jim Wood, head of the Assembly Health Committee. Wood has condemned nursing homes for not doing enough during the pandemic and has directed state regulators to conduct stricter oversight.

Muratsuchi’s measure has cleared the state Assembly and awaits a hearing in the Senate.

Investigations by news organizations CalMatters and LAist last year found that at least two California nursing home operators without licenses were running dozens of facilities even though officials at the state Department of Public Health had declared them unfit to do so.

The homes remain open, in large part because finding another nursing home for residents is incredibly difficult.

In July 2016, state regulators denied a license to Rechnitz — who had purchased the Windsor Redding Care Center, where Arthur Trenerry died — citing 265 health and safety code violations at his other facilities in the previous three years. Nevertheless, Rechnitz continues to operate the home in partnership with a former owner, Lee Samson, who is listed as a license holder in state records.

Mark Johnson, a lawyer who represents Rechnitz and his company, Brius Healthcare, said that Windsor Redding Care Center’s “license is in good standing” and that Rechnitz is managing the facility under an agreement “that is customary in the skilled nursing facility industry.” Rechnitz has filed a new and updated license application with the state, Johnson said.

Johanna Trenerry said she had no idea Rechnitz had been denied a license. Had she known, she said, she would never have placed her husband of 60 years at Windsor Redding.

Even before her husband caught covid, Trenerry and her children were trying to transfer him to another home because he seemed overly medicated, could no longer hold up his head, and fell numerous times trying to get out of bed, she said. Once, she recalled, the nursing home brought out the wrong person when the family visited.

They kept him “so drugged up,” said Nancy Hearden, one of the Trenerrys’ eight children. “And I think it was just because it was easier for them. He wasn’t getting to go to his rehab. I felt, ‘We’ve got to get him out of this place.’”

Then he got covid.

Sixty of the 84 residents at the facility came down with the disease in September 2020 — and at least two dozen of them died. According to a lawsuit filed by family members of 15 residents who died, including the Trenerrys, employees of the home were forced to work despite having covid symptoms. The lawsuit refers to state citations that found the home didn’t supply enough personal protective equipment to staffers, didn’t test staff, and placed covid patients and untested patients in the same rooms with residents who weren’t infected.

Johnson denied the allegations.

Last Updated 06/29/2022

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