Chuck Grassley

United States Senator from Iowa

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Iowan to Recount Story of Mother’s Death at Delinquent Nursing Home before Finance Committee

Mar 05, 2019

WASHINGTON – Patricia Blank of Shell Rock, Iowa, will testify Wednesday at a Senate Finance Committee hearing on protecting Americans from abuse and neglect in nursing homes. Blank’s mother, Virginia Olthoff, was allegedly left in severe pain and may not have had any water for days before her death while in the care of a nursing home. That nursing home received the highest possible ranking from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) for quality of resident care, though it had been fined for physical and verbal abuse a year before Olthoff’s death.

“How a place with the highest possible rating could yield such a tragic incident is just outrageous. Things need to change, both for the standards at care facilities and for how CMS rates them. When American families consider where their loved ones can get the care they need, they should be able to rely on CMS information. That’s clearly not the case right now,” Grassley said. “Ms. Blank will give the committee important insight into what needs to be done and CMS will update us on the progress it’s making to help families like hers.”

Read more about Olthoff HERE, HERE and HERE. An updated notice for Wednesday’s hearing can be found below and witness information follows.

Public Hearing

Revised Notice

(Witnesses Added)

 

The Chairman wishes to inform Members that the Committee on Finance will meet on Wednesday, March 6, 2019, at 10:15 a.m., in 215 Dirksen Senate Office Building, to hear testimony on “Not Forgotten: Protecting Americans From Abuse and Neglect in Nursing Homes.”

The following witnesses are scheduled to testify:

            Panel I

Patricia Blank, Daughter of Nursing Home Neglect Victim, Shell Rock, IA

Maya Fischer, Daughter of Nursing Home Abuse Victim, Seminole, FL

David Grabowski, Ph.D., Professor, Harvard Medical School, Cambridge, MA

David Gifford, M.D., MPH, Senior Vice President, Quality and Regulatory Affairs, American Health Care Association, Washington DC

Panel II

Kate Goodrich, M.D., Director, Center for Clinical Standards and Quality, and Chief Medical Officer, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, Baltimore, MD

Antoinette Bacon, Associate Deputy Attorney General and National Elder Justice Coordinator, United States Department of Justice, Washington, DC

Keesha Mitchell, Section Chief, Health Care Fraud Section, Office of the Ohio Attorney General, Columbus, OH

The Chairman urges every Member to attend.

 

 

Witness information:

Panel I

Patricia (“Pat”) Blank

Ms. Blank, whose 87 year-old mother died in a widely publicized nursing home neglect case in Iowa last year, has been with Iowa Public Radio for over three decades. Ms. Blank served as a reporter for many years and became the host of “All Things Considered” in 1995. The nonprofit facility in which her mother, Virginia Olthoff, died had been fined for physical and verbal abuse of residents, yet still received the highest possible, five-star ranking from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) for quality of resident care. The same facility reportedly received the lowest possible inspection ranking from government investigators. The state recommended a fine due to the nursing home’s mistreatment of Olthoff (she was dehydrated, in severe pain, and possibly denied water for several days) and two other residents -- including another who died the same day.  CMS reportedly fined the facility, Timely Mission Nursing Home, over $50,000 for deficiencies in resident care.

Maya Fischer

Ms. Fischer’s late mother, Sonja Fischer, who suffered from Alzheimer’s disease and was unable to speak, was raped by a nursing assistant at a Minneapolis, Minnesota facility in 2015. The family later filed a civil suit against the facility, Walker Methodist Health Center, which settled the case, and against the perpetrator, who pled guilty to the crime and was sentenced to eight years in prison. Ms. Fischer testified at his sentencing that her mother had fled Indonesia as a youth to escape the rape and killing of young girls by Japanese soldiers, only to fall victim many years later to someone who was charged with her care.  The perpetrator previously had been suspended by his employing nursing home three times over repeated abuse accusations and police had investigated him twice for alleged sexual assault.  

David Grabowski, Ph.D.

Dr. Grabowski (suggested by the ranking member’s staff) is a Harvard Medical School professor who has conducted research on nursing home quality and staffing. Dr. Grabowski also led a team at Harvard in the evaluation of the CMS Nursing Home Value-Based Purchasing Demonstration. He is a Commissioner on MedPAC and a member of CMS technical panels. He serves on the editorial board of several journals, including the American Journal of Health Economics and Medical Care Research & Review. Dr. Grabowski received his B.A. from Duke University and his Ph.D. in public policy from the Irving B. Harris School of Public Policy at the University of Chicago.

David Gifford, M.D., MPH

Dr. Gifford is a geriatrician who currently serves as the Senior Vice President of Quality and Regulatory Affairs at the American Health Care Association (the nursing home industry’s trade group). In this role, he assists AHCA members in their quality improvement efforts. Dr. Gifford serves on the board of the “Advancing Excellence in America’s Nursing Homes” campaign, chairs the U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs (VA) Geriatric and Gerontology Advisory Committee, and has served on federal expert panels, including a CMS panel to develop a quality assurance and performance improvement program for nursing homes. Dr. Gifford is a former director of the Rhode Island State Department of Health (2005-2011). He holds a faculty appointment at Brown University Medical School and School of Public Health; he also served as medical director in several Rhode Island nursing homes. He received his medical degree from Case Western Reserve University and did his geriatric fellowship at UCLA, where he also earned a Master’s in Public Health.

Panel II

Kate Goodrich, M.D.

Dr. Goodrich joined the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) in September 2011, where she currently serves as the director of the Center for Clinical Standards and Quality (CCSQ). CMS oversees the federal quality standards that nursing homes must meet in order to participate in Medicare and Medicaid, and it defines the role of CMS’s regional offices. The CMS office headed by Dr. Goodrich oversees quality improvement programs as well as all coverage decisions for treatments and services for Medicare beneficiaries. Dr. Goodrich is a graduate of the Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholars Program at Yale University where she received training in health services research and health policy from 2008-2010. From 1998 to 2008, Dr. Goodrich was on faculty at the George Washington University Medical Center (GWUMC). She attended Rhodes College in Memphis, Tennessee and attended medical school at Louisiana State University in Shreveport, Louisiana, before completing her internal medicine residency and chief medical resident year at GWUMC.  

Antoinette (“Toni”) Bacon, J.D.

Ms. Bacon has spent much of her professional career as a federal prosecutor. After graduating from the University of Virginia School of Law, she clerked for a federal district court judge in Virginia, then moved into the U.S. Department of Justice's (DOJ’s) Antitrust Division in Washington, D.C. She led the prosecution of dozens of public officials and businesspeople charged in fraud, waste, and corruption cases (receiving awards from the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), Internal Revenue Service, U.S. Postal Service, and U.S. Attorney’s Office for her efforts as an Assistant U.S. Attorney). She currently serves as an Associate Deputy Attorney General and DOJ’s National Elder Justice Coordinator. The latter position was established under the “Elder Abuse Prevention and Prosecution Act,” a new statute that Chm. Grassley championed in the 115th Congress. Ms. Bacon is a native of Cleveland, Ohio.

Keesha Redman Mitchell, J.D.

Ms. Mitchell is Section Chief in the Health Care Fraud section of the Ohio Attorney General’s office. This unit investigates and prosecutes instances of patient abuse and patient neglect within Ohio’s care facilities; it also investigates and prosecutes health care providers who submit fraudulent billings to the Medicaid program. Ms. Mitchell previously served as Assistant Attorney General prosecuting workers’ compensation cases in Ohio and was cross-designated as a Special Assistant U.S. Attorney (SAUSA) for the federal district court in the Southern District of Ohio for cases involving health care fraud committed against the Medicaid program. She has served since at least 2010 as a member of the executive committee for the National Association of Medicaid Fraud Control Units. Early in her career, she was a public defender in Columbus, Ohio. She earned her B.A. in political science at Mount Holyoke College and her J.D. from the Ohio State University, Moritz College of Law.

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