The United States Senate’s Special Committee on Aging singled out for attention one particular nursing home executive in a letter dated January 27 addressed to Genesis Healthcare. This chain owns more than 300 facilities across the US. Genesis nursing home residents have died in unprecedented numbers during the Coronavirus epidemic – to date, more than 2,800 have succumbed, not to mention more than 14,000 additional confirmed cases. Dealing with a crisis of epic proportions, Genesis applied for and received more than $300 million in state and federal emergency aid. The virus ravaged the operations of the company’s nursing homes so badly that management suggested in filings that it might not be able to stay afloat.
Therefore, it came as both a shock and surprise that the board of the company elected to give its CEO, George Hager, Jr., a $5.2 million “retention payment” in October 2020. The award wasn’t big enough; Hager decided to retire on January 5, 2021.
Senator Elizabeth Warren minced few words with the new CEO, Robert Fish, in a letter she wrote on January 27, 2021. She says:
“I write to express concern about the inexplicable and unseemly decision by Genesis Healthcare, Inc. (Genesis) and its board to approve and pay exorbitant bonuses to its top executives after more than 2,800 residents in its facilities died of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). The company’s former CEO – George Hager, Jr. – is reported to have been paid a “retention” bonus of $5.2 million in October 2020, only to turn around and announce his retirement earlier this month. I would like an explanation for this unfathomable greed amidst a public health tragedy and economic crisis, and to know why Genesis, which claimed to be on the brink of bankruptcy and accepted $300 million in state and federal aid under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), gave its top executive – who was unable to keep nursing home residents safe – a multi-million dollar bonus, in addition to a $650,000 retirement bonus and $300,000 consulting contract.”
Such great points! How can a company justify giving its CEO an enormous bonus in the face of massive losses, deaths, and poor management? Mr. Hager’s base salary of $900,000 was insufficient, as was his $935,000 bonus in 2020.
The American Health Care Association, which represents the for-profit nursing home industry, including Genesis, continues to lobby for federal assistance. They ask for even more money, on top of the $10 billion the federal government has already provided to nursing homes on an emergency basis since the pandemic began. Unfortunately, the greed within the industry knows no bounds. The largest chains have used the pandemic as an excuse to pad their pockets at the expense of residents, staff, and American taxpayers.
What can be done to combat Nursing Home Greed?
The Genesis case is merely the tip of the iceberg. Let us hope that the US Senate Special Council of Aging sees that the problems run way deeper than Genesis and that a serious investigation is launched into how so many nursing homes failed to provide the most basic levels of care against infections and to keep residents safe. It’s time to get tough and make these for-profit companies accountable for their egregious mistakes and malpractice.
Attorney Wendy York of York Law Firm specializes in prosecuting elder abuse and wrongful death cases. For further information, please contact attorney Wendy York of York Law Firm in Northern California.