TOPEKA – (April 3, 2020) – Because social distancing and other lifestyle disruptions caused by the COVID-19 response will make some elder and disabled Kansans more isolated and susceptible to abuse, neglect and exploitation, Congress should quickly lift restrictions that restrict states from fighting in-home abuse of Medicaid patients, Attorney General Derek Schmidt said today.
In a letter sent yesterday, Schmidt led a bipartisan group of state attorneys general in asking U.S. Senate leaders to quickly enact, as part of the national COVID-19 response, pending legislation that would allow state Medicaid Fraud Control Units (MFCUs) to combat the abuse of Medicaid patients anywhere that abuse occurs. Under current federal law, MFCUs have jurisdiction over Medicaid patient abuse only in nursing homes, hospitals and other institutional settings, but not in non-institutional settings such as home health care.
“In the current nationwide COVID-19 emergency, we are deeply concerned that one consequence is increasing social isolation of vulnerable populations, primarily elder or disabled persons, who live at home and in other noninstitutional settings,” Schmidt wrote for himself and the attorneys general of Idaho, Oregon and Vermont. “In ordinary times, these persons face heightened risks of abuse, neglect and exploitation because of their vulnerabilities. But during the current emergency, when social norms and service-delivery systems are disrupted, that risk is multiplied.”
The attorneys general requested prompt enactment of the Medicaid Patient Abuse Prevention Act, which would expand MFCU jurisdiction to include home health care and non-institutional settings. The legislation passed the U.S. House of Representatives 371-46 last year as part of a bipartisan package of Medicaid-related bills, but it has yet to receive a vote in the Senate.
“To the best of our knowledge, [this legislation] is not controversial,” the attorneys general wrote. “And it can immediately make available existing MFCU assets to help protect the health and safety of many Medicaid patients who receive in-home services and who may, because of the extraordinary social disruption caused by the response to COVID-19, be at increased risk of abuse, neglect and exploitation.”
As a condition of participation in the Medicaid program, states generally are required to operate a MFCU to help detect, investigate and prosecute Medicaid provider fraud and patient abuse. In Kansas as in most states, the unit is housed in the attorney general’s office. The federal government pays three-fourths of the cost of operating these units, and because of that sets limits on their jurisdiction. One of those limits – the one that would be lifted by this legislation – restricts states from using these units to address patient abuse in non-institutional settings such as a home health care situation.
A copy of the letter can be found at https://bit.ly/2xEySkF.