Kentucky's two U.S. Attorneys asked for help Tuesday from other officials in prosecuting nursing homes that provide substandard or life-threatening care to residents.
"It's important that we ensure that nursing home residents receive the proper care they deserve and many long-term care providers render high-quality services," Kerry B. Harvey, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Kentucky, said in a statement.
The two prosecutors asked law enforcement officers, state regulators and private insurance investigators to help them battle health care fraud at a Frankfort task force meeting that was closed to the public.
The Obama administration has made fighting health care fraud one of its main priorities and the U.S. attorneys in Kentucky created a task force to combat it. It met for the first time in September 2010, said Kyle Edelen, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in the Eastern District of Kentucky. At least 40 agencies are represented in the group.
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In cases of abuse and neglect at nursing homes, "we intend to bring all available resources to bear to remedy circumstances in which there is a systematic failure to render adequate care," Harvey said in a statement after the meeting.
In addition to pursuing criminal charges, federal prosecutors in other parts of the country are increasingly filing civil lawsuits called "failure to care" cases against nursing homes and are seeking financial penalties, the prosecutors told officials.
Harvey and David J. Hale, U.S. attorney for the Western District of Kentucky, said they did not know of any such lawsuits that had been filed in Kentucky.
"Our preference would be that there would never be a necessity to bring a claim like this," Harvey said in an interview. "But it is another tool that's available in an effort to ensure that residents receive adequate care. It will be used in appropriate cases."
Andrew Penn, a lead attorney for an elder justice task force with the U.S. Justice Department, spoke to the group Tuesday. Penn assists U.S. Attorneys' Offices around the country on nursing home and failure of care cases.
In other areas of health care fraud, the officials discussed new technologies to identify and analyze potential fraudulent claims.
"Our goal is to build a comprehensive statewide strategy employing all of the tools available to our federal, state and private partners," Hale said in a statement. "This is a national and district priority."