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26 California nursing homes make unlawful profits, lawsuit alleges

 

LOS ANGELES, June 14 /U.S. Newswire/ -- Twenty-two Horizon West nursing homes in California are named in a class action lawsuit filed Wednesday, June 14, 2006, in Sacramento Superior Court, alleging unlawful business practices, unfair and fraudulent business practices, violations of health & safety codes, and violations of the Consumer Legal Remedies Act on behalf of Hazel Adams by and through her Attorney in Fact Judy Wilken and the thousands of other citizens of the State of California who have or do reside in a Horizon West skilled nursing facility.

The allegations of the complaint spans the time period from June 10, 2002 to June 10, 2006 and alleges that the defendants, Horizon West, Inc., Horizon West Healthcare, Inc., Horizon West Healthcare of California, Inc., and 26 of the skilled nursing facilities it owns, operates, or manages in California are knowingly not providing the minimum level of direct patient care mandated by the State of California and Federal regulations.

 

Yet these elderly residents, their insurance companies, and even Medicare and MediCal, are being billed as if the lawfully required care is being provided. Additionally, the complaint alleges that the corporation and facilities are advertising on their web sites, in brochures, and during site visits that they are meeting all California laws and regulations when, in fact, they are not doing so.

"Inadequate staffing leads to elder abuse. It is that plain and that simple. The California Legislature realized this reality back in 1999 when it implemented the law that as of January 1, 2000, all skilled nursing facilities must comply with providing residents 3.2 nursing hours per patient per day," says Long Beach plaintiff attorney Stephen M. Garcia of Garcia Law.

"Take, for example, the Horizon West facility Sierra Health Care Center in Davis, Calif. Documents filed, under penalty of perjury, by the Horizon West defendants with the State of California Records reflect that this facility averaged 2.55 nursing hours per patient per day during the year 2004. If these numbers are accurate, that would mean that Sierra Health Care Center failed to provide approximately 26,235 hours of legally required nursing care to its residents. If true, the Horizon companies billed, and were pad for, services they did not perform."

Garcia continues, "During that same year, according to public records, the California Department of Health Services issued this same facility with 15 notices of deficiencies. The year 2005 was even worse, with DHS writing them 25 notices of deficiencies, resulting in Sierra Health Care Center being 220 percent over the statewide average of 11 citations that year. Once again, there is a direct correlation between adequacy of staff and quality of care in these nursing homes."

Horizon West, Inc., headquartered in Rocklin, Calif., a for- profit company with a checkered past, runs elder-care facilities in California and Utah. In February 1999, Horizon West, Inc. paid the United States government $4 million to settle claims that it bilked Medicare by submitting fraudulent cost reports. Federal officials alleged that Horizon West submitted billings to Medicare for the cost of the liquor bar at the company's annual holiday party, the purchases of shoes, boots, and a handbag at Saks Fifth Avenue by an officer of the company, and purchases of gifts, cigarettes and lotto tickets.

"It was reported in the media that as part of the 1999 settlement Horizon West agreed to implement a corporate integrity program," says Garcia. "I can't help but wonder how such a program can exist alongside corporate and facility management allegedly creating, approving and using budgets that short-shrift their elderly residents by not providing the staff they need and, to add insult to injury, that they are paying for."

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