Genesis Healthcare has settled allegations that nine of its facilities in Massachusetts and Rhode Island denied admission to potential residents who were prescribed opioid use disorder treatments, federal investigators said Monday.
The provider could pay $60,000 over the allegations, adopt non-discrimination policies and train admissions personnel, under the terms of agreement. Genesis could waive as much as $50,000 of the fines if the facilities comply with the terms of the agreement.
"(HHS) Secretary [Xavier] Becerra has made advancing the goal of ending the opioid crisis a key priority for HHS, particularly since the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated this deadly crisis," said Dr. Robinsue Frohboese, acting HHS director of the Office of Civil rights in a statement. "This agreement and the steps that Genesis is taking across its facilities advances this important goal by ensuring civil rights laws protect healthcare access for people who are in treatment for opioid use disorder."
Federal prosecutors in Massachusetts and Rhode Island opened an investigation after receiving complaints that alleged Genesis facilities refused to admit patients because they were being treated with buprenorphine or methadone, which would violate the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Rehabilitation Act and the Affordable Care Act.
The agreement noted an April 2019 incident when a hospital requested an available bed for a patient who needed skilled nursing services at one of the facilities only for staff to deny admission due to the patient's Suboxone prescription.
The U.S. Attorney's Office in Massachusetts has reached four settlements with nursing facility operators for similar claims.
Despite legal protections, post-acute care facilities routinely deny admission for patients receiving medication-assisted treatment. Nearly a third of post-acute care facilities in Massachusetts rejected patients with opioid use disorder in 2018, according to a 2020 analysis by Boston Medical Center's Grayken Center for Addiction.
Genesis did not admit the allegations occurred as part of the settlement agreement.
"To avoid the expense of litigation, however, the centers nevertheless agreed to clarify their admission policies to ensure full compliance with the ADA in connection with medication-assisted treatment for opioid use disorders," Genesis said in a statement. "The updated policy confirms that admission decisions must ensure the safety of all residents in accordance with ADA law, consistent with Genesis policy."