Michigan initiative aims to protect vulnerable nursing home residents

Residents of Michigan nursing homes are getting added protection from scammers through a new initiative.

A complaint system operated by the attorney general's office will be a “direct line between the department and facility administrators who may notice warning signs of financial exploition,” a release from Attorney General Dana Nessel's office says.

Administrators can report their suspicions to the Health Care Fraud Division for investigation via the new online portal available on the department’s website.

“The safety and security of nursing home residents is one of my department’s top priorities,” Nessel said in the release. “This portal will provide an avenue for nursing home employees to report suspected embezzlement and financial exploitation. If a facility knows a resident has a stream of income, but their patient account is in the red, it may be a warning sign that someone is siphoning away the patient’s assets. That concern can be reported via this portal directly to our team to evaluate for investigation. We look forward to working collaboratively with the long-term care community to root out and prosecute any suspected abuse.”

Suspicions and complaints can be lodged by anyone to the attorney general's hotline at 800-24-ABUSE.

The announcement comes after a July 12 Detroit News story by reporter Charlie LeDuff. His story says attorney Traci Kornak, also treasurer for the Michigan Democratic Party and a member of Nessel's transition team, improperly billed nearly $50,000 to a nursing home resident’s insurance company, State Farm. Kornak claimed the bill was for an extra attendant to take care of a client for whom Kornak serves as legal guardian. The address given for the attendant was the same as Kornak.

Kornak, according to the story, told State Farm the additional attendant was employed by the client’s nursing home, the Village of Heather Hills, and provided State Farm with the facility's federal employer identification number. When State Farm sent Heather Hills a check for more than $23,000, the resident facility’s chief executive, Joe LeBlanc, contacted Kornak, who told LeBlanc to cash the check “and then she said she’d pay us a little money for the trouble,” LeBlanc told LeDuff.

No charges have been filed.

The Health Care Fraud Division gets 75% of its funding from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services under a grant award totaling $4,846,440 for federal fiscal year 2022, and 25% from the state, totaling $1,615,478.

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