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Nursing home chain must sell 10 homes

The nation's largest nursing home chain must sell 10 homes in a fraud settlement designed to punish the company but allow residents to stay where they are and be cared for by the new owners.

Health and Human Services Department Inspector General June Gibbs Brown called the settlement "an innovative way of holding the company accountable for its criminal actions while safeguarding the residents."

Beverly Enterprises Inc. agreed Thursday to plead guilty to criminal charges of inflating the number of hours nurses spent caring for Medicare patients. As part of the settlement, the company will pay $175-million in fines and sell homes in California, Georgia, Kansas, South Carolina and Washington.

Charges against the Arkansas-based company were not related to the quality of patient care. Government officials said residents of the 10 homes that will be sold can continue to live there, get the same care and receive government benefits to cover their expenses.

Beverly will have up to four months to find a new owner for each home. In the meantime, "We intend to work diligently in all of the communities to continue to take care of our residents," said Beverly spokesman Dan Springer.

Springer added that nursing homes commonly change ownership with minimal disruption to patients. And, in this case, the government will oversee the process and must approve the new owners.

The Beverly settlement is the biggest ever in a federal nursing home fraud case.

In total, Beverly operates 561 skilled nursing facilities and 34 assisted living centers nationwide, with about 53,000 patients.