An ongoing federal investigation is looking into senior living giant Emeritus, news outlet ProPublica reported this week just days following an announcement the company would merge with industry counterpart Brookdale Senior Living.
The investigation, according to ProPublica, is looking into Emeritus’s operations including its Medicaid billing practices and has been ongoing since January 2013.
According to ProPublica reporter A.C. Thompson, who also penned a series of critical reports on Emeritus in 2013, “A person with direct knowledge of the investigation portrayed it as two-pronged effort involving both the Justice Department and the inspector general for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Since January of 2013, investigators have been exploring allegations of improper Medicaid billing, as well as other aspects of the company’s business dealings, the person said.”
Emeritus confirmed the investigation is taking place but declined to comment further.
“While we are fully cooperating with the investigation, as a matter of policy, we cannot comment nor would we publicly discuss information that might compromise or influence the government’s reviews,” Emeritus spokeswoman MaryBeth Dagg told SHN in an email.
Further, Emeritus said, the inquiries being discussed are not uncommon.
“We also believe that allegations such as ProPublica’s in the midst of a government inquiry are inappropriate and premature,” Dagg said. “As we stated to ProPublica earlier this week, such inquiries in this day and age are common and not determinative of anything. Of course, we will respond once the investigation is completed.”
Medicaid reimbursements do not comprise a substantial portion of Emeritus’s revenues; rather the company focuses on private-pay senior living including independent living, assisted living and memory care.
ProPublica cited correspondence provided to the unnamed source from an attorney who reportedly advised Emeritus employees on how to respond to the investigation, stating they were not required to provide answers or documentation, but advising them to be truthful should they choose to respond.
The ProPublica account of the investigation follows a series of reports the outlet published last year in print and on public television that delved into Emeritus’s business practices including a recent wrongful death lawsuit filed by the family of a former Emeritus resident.
When asked about the reports in a discussion of plans to merge with Emeritus, Brookdale CEO Andy Smith said he agreed Brookdale would have responded in the same way.
“It was a temporary setback for Emeritus,” Smith said. “We looked into it deeply… but we are quite comfortable with the fact the effect is fleeting and the company wont suffer from it.”
Written by Elizabeth Ecker