A recent Washington Post article concludes that many nursing homes have been “up-coding” billing for care of residents for years, meaning that some nursing homes sometimes bill a resident more than they should be billed by using a special billing category intended to be used only for the five percent of nursing home patients who need highly specialized care and rehabilition.
The article quotes Marie-Therese Connolly, who headed the Justice Department’s Elder Justice and Nursing Home Initiative from 1999 to 2007, as stating that “[u]pcoding, billing for services not rendered, and billing for worthless services have been significant problems for years, costing taxpayers many millions, if not billions, of dollars.”
In the Washington area, two nursing homes owned by HCR ManorCare put their residents in the most expensive billing category at nearly five times the national average, according to the Washington Post analysis. The ManorCare nursing home in Silver Spring, MD put 45 percent of its residents into that category, and the ManorCare facility in Wheaton, MD put 43 percent of its residents into that category. According to the article, a spokesman for ManorCare denied any improper billing or upcoding, stating that residents are coded into billing categories based on their medical and rehabilitative needs.
According to the Post article, this billing program is specifically targeted in President Obama’s health-care legislation passed last week by Congress, changing two rules that experts said have been exploited by nursing homes to inflate bills. For a review of how the new health-care legislation affects seniors, see my article Health Reform: Changes in Store for the Elderly.