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The California Attorney General joined a coalition of District and City Attorneys, led by Kern County District Attorney Cynthia Zimmer, in filing a lawsuit against Tennessee-based Brookdale Senior Living, Inc., the nation’s largest senior living operator.

The company has over 70,000 staff members and 100,000 residents spread across 800 facilities in 45 states.

The lawsuit, which concerns Brookdale’s ten California skilled nursing facilities, alleges that Brookdale ignored laws that protect patients’ safety when they are discharged from a facility. Senior care centers are paid substantially more by Medicare than by other sources such as Medi-Cal, leading facilities to covet those residents. California accuses Brookdale of pushing out others to make way for the highest bidder – regardless of care and treatment needs – while ignoring patients’ legal protections.

The lawsuit also alleges that Brookdale gave false information to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid, information which CMS uses to award “star ratings” to skilled nursing facilities so that consumers can choose a quality facility.

By lying to CMS, Brookdale allegedly fraudulently increased its star rating in several categories to attract prospective patients and their families.

The lawsuit also alleges that Brookdale failed to properly notify its patients and families of transfers and discharges. Skilled nursing facilities are required to give notice of transfer or discharge at least 30 days in advance, or as soon as practicable.

Brookdale allegedly failed to timely provide this required notice to its patients, with a copy to the local ombudsmen. Brookdale also allegedly failed to properly prepare its patients for transfer or discharge. As a result of these actions, Brookdale endangered the health of its patients and also left families scrambling to find other places to care for their loved ones.

The lawsuit also alleges that Brookdale misrepresented the quality of its care to the public by reporting false information to CMS. As a means of helping the public to choose a skilled nursing facility, CMS rates facilities on several quality measures on a scale of one to five stars, which are then posted to the CMS website.

The lawsuit alleges that Brookdale over-reported its nursing staffing hours to CMS, and by doing so, Brookdale was awarded undeserved four-and five-star ratings. In the lawsuit, the coalition argues that by engaging in these unfair business practices, Brookdale violated both the Unfair Competition Law and False Advertising Law.

The Attorney General joins the district attorneys of Kern, Alameda, San Diego, and Santa Cruz Counties, as well as the Los Angeles City Attorney.

A Brookdale spokesperson denied the allegations and noted the Golden State has either filed or threatened to file similar actions against other senior facilities.