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Collusion between nursing home operator with investigator

Published on August 31st, 2010

Lexington Herald Leader reported the guilty pleas of Moses Young, assistant director with the Office of Inspector General, and Sharon Harris, a state-employed nurse who covered up the inappropriate relationship and unethical behavior they had with at least one nursing home operator.  Kentucky investigators learned they each lived in Lexington homes owned by Ralph Stacey Jr.  At the time, Stacey owned Garrard Convalescent Home in Covington.

An April 1 indictment against Young alleged that Young lived rent-free from July 2005 to March 2008 in a condominium owned by a third party in violation of state ethics rules, identified in documents only as "R.S."  A plea agreement said Young admitted that he and others made bogus rent receipts and presented them to a federal grand jury. sIn exchange, the indictment alleged, Young provided R.S. with inside agency information and instructions that would assist R.S. in passing inspections and obtaining favorable treatment with regard to administrative actions of the Cabinet for Health and Family Services. In exchange for the guilty plea, prosecutors said they would drop the charge related to Young allegedly providing inside information.

In her plea agreement, Harris admitted that she had "watched as others fabricated the receipts to thwart a criminal investigation." Her plea agreement said she told an FBI agent in April 2009 that she knew the rent receipts Young provided were genuine because she had personally delivered the receipts over time to the landlord.

Why didn’t they arrest Ralph Stacey for bribery or something?

 Maybe this article from the Kentucky Lexington Herald Leader explains why. The Herald-Leader examined the industry’s campaign donations following stories earlier this summer that revealed systemic gaps in the state’s handling of abuse and neglect cases at nursing homes.  The nursing home industry gave at least $1.8 million to Kentucky politicians over the last decade while lobbying against bills that would require them to hire more direct-care employees, face higher fines for violations and abide by stronger precautions against elder abuse, among others.

Nursing home reform bills usually are assigned to the House Health and Welfare Committee, where they perish.  Committee chairman Tom Burch is invested in a real estate trust that includes nursing homes. Burch’s former House aide, Eric Clark, now is chief lobbyist for the Kentucky Association of Health Care Facilities, the group representing for-profit nursing homes, and runs its political action committee, which has given at least $90,750 in campaign donations since 2005.  U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell gets more of the industry’s money than any other Kentucky politician, at least $266,350 over the last decade. McConnell does not support nursing home reform.

The Kentucky Association of Health Care Facilities gives annual awards to nursing homes that raise the most money for its political action committee, with special emphasis on companies that use payroll deduction to collect the money from employees.

In 2008, for instance, Barren County Health Center in Glasgow won an award from KAHCF for "most contributions raised overall per bed" for its region. That same year, the same nursing home received a Type A citation — the most serious — from the state after a resident choked to death on a fried chicken dinner.

Overall, KAHCF honored four nursing homes and consultants Wells Health Systems that year for their political fund-raising, according to the group’s 2009-10 Membership Directory and Buyer’s Guide.

The majority of the industry’s campaign money goes to Kentucky’s congressional delegation. The industry’s national group, the American Health Care Association, reports spending more than $1.1 million so far this year lobbying Congress on Medicaid payments and rules that would require public disclosure of the size of nursing homes’ direct-care staffs and how much they are paid, among other items.

Also, the Herald-Leader in July reported that Type A citations issued against nursing homes by the state sometimes sit in Conway’s office or with local prosecutors for more than 18 months while officials decide whether to pursue criminal charges.

 

Joe Pioletti
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