A coalition of California prosecutors, including California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, on Monday sued Brookdale Senior Living, which operates senior living communities across the country, for allegedly misrepresenting its quality of care and incorrectly discharging residents.
The lawsuit claims that Brookdale provided CMS with false data on Nursing Home Compare which were used to tabulate nursing home star ratings, which reflect nursing home care quality. Brookdale allegedly over-reported nursing staffing hours, which contributed to the facilities' four- and five-star ratings.
The lawsuit also alleged that Brookdale transferred or discharged residents without adequate notice in an attempt to make room for "residents who will bring in more money."
Becerra, President Joe Biden's choice for health secretary, said the state will ensure Brookdale will "face consequences for violating the public's trust."
"We are holding Brookdale accountable for artificially increasing its profits by cutting corners when transferring or discharging its patients. It lured individuals to its facilities through false promises about providing the highest quality care," Becerra said in a statement. "Choosing a skilled nursing facility is no simple task. Seniors, people with disabilities and their families rely heavily on accurate data to make that decision. Californians have been directly impacted by Brookdale's behavior."
A Brookdale spokesperson said the company is aware of the lawsuit, and related lawsuits against other skilled nursing providers, and "categorically den[ies] that Brookdale engaged in intentional or fraudulent conduct."
"We are disappointed in the allegations against the skilled nursing industry. Publicizing unproven allegations is reckless and undermines the public's confidence in a service necessary to the care of elderly individuals, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic," the spokesperson said. "Brookdale is dedicated to providing quality care to our residents and patients, and we take our mission of enriching the lives of those we serve seriously."
The lawsuit involves Brookdale's 10 skilled nursing facilities in California and the district attorneys of Kern, Alameda, San Diego and Santa Cruz Counties and the Los Angeles city attorney.
Brentwood, Tenn.-based Brookdale operates more than 700 senior living communities in 43 states, which can serve more than 64,000 residents.
"Residents of skilled nursing facilities are often our mothers, our fathers and our grandparents who are facing challenging times in their lives. Rules designed to protect nursing facility residents must be followed to ensure the dignity, respect, and compassion that residents deserve," Kern County District Attorney Cynthia Zimmer, who is leading the lawsuit, said in a statement. "When companies fail to comply with these rules, they create environments that subject the most vulnerable among us to unnecessary victimization, stress, and even physical harm. This case seeks accountability for offenders and is a reminder to all skilled nursing facilities of the importance of following rules designed to ensure the protection of vulnerable residents."