Following Select Subcommittee Inquiry, Nursing Home Chain Returns $109 Million in Federal Coronavirus Funds

Aug 5, 2020
Press Release

Washington, D.C. (August 5, 2020) — Today, Rep. James E. Clyburn, Chairman of the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, issued the following statement after Ensign Group, Inc. returned approximately $109 million in taxpayer funds that the company had received but was not using as Congress intended “for health care related expenses or lost revenues that are attributable to the coronavirus”:

 

“I am pleased that the work of the Select Subcommittee has, again, resulted in the recovery of taxpayer funds—in this instance, approximately $109 million—that were not being used as Congress intended.  It is the mission of this Subcommittee to ensure that coronavirus relief funds appropriated by Congress are distributed effectively, efficiently, and equitably.  I urge all health care providers that received taxpayer dollars from the Provider Relief Fund to allocate them toward their lawful purposes—caring for patients or replenishing revenues lost as a result of the pandemic—or return the funds immediately.”

 

On June 16, 2020, the Select Subcommittee launched an investigation into the coronavirus crisis in nursing homes across the country, sending letters to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the federal agency that oversees nursing homes, and to the nation’s five largest for-profit nursing home companies.  The letters asked the companies for information on all coronavirus relief funds received and a “detailed description of how the funds were spent.”

 

In response, one company, Ensign Group, reported that it received more than $100 million in coronavirus relief funds from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) that the company had not solicited.  Ensign Group stated that as of June 30, the company had “not applied any of the relief money received … to expenditures that would otherwise qualify for the use of those funds.”  

 

On July 28, 2020, Chairman Clyburn sent a second letter to Ensign Group regarding the company’s unused funds.  The letter noted that Ensign Group’s most recent public filings stated “the company’s portfolio is not being overwhelmed by COVID-19” and achieved “record-breaking” first quarter results that “still substantially exceeded our own expectations for the quarter” despite “the shutdown of normal patient traffic” due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

 

The Chairman’s July 28 letter stated:  “I urge you to allocate these funds toward their lawful purposes, such as caring for patients with the coronavirus, or return the funds immediately.  Other well-capitalized healthcare providers … have already returned unneeded provider grant funds to the Treasury—enabling HHS to redistribute the money to other providers that desperately need the funds.” 

 

Following the Select Subcommittee’s July 28 letter, Ensign Group reported on August 5 that it had “returned all funds to an agent of HHS.”

 

Under the CARES Act and the Patient Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act, Congress appropriated $175 billion dollars for the Provider Relief Fund.  In May 2020, HHS distributed nearly $4.9 billion of these funds to 13,000 nursing homes around the country.  Many nursing homes also received additional funds as part of HHS’s distributions of $50 billion to Medicare providers in April and $15 billion to Medicaid providers in June.  The law requires these funds to be used “for health care related expenses or lost revenues that are attributable to the coronavirus.” 

 

Click here to read the Chairman’s June 16 and July 28 letters to Ensign Group.

 

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116th Congress