When Andy Beshear became governor a month ago, Adam Mather was regional operations vice president for Signature HealthCare, a Louisville-based firm “that owns more than two dozen low-rated nursing homes around the state,” writes John Cheves of the Lexington Herald-Leader. Twenty days later, Mather started work as the Beshear-appointed watchdog of Kentucky’s “troubled nursing home industry” as inspector general of the Cabinet for Health and Family Services.
Mather’s office “inspects several hundred nursing homes in Kentucky on behalf of the federal government, which pays for the bulk of residents’ care through Medicare and Medicaid,” Cheves notes. “Poor results on inspections can lead to expensive fines and, in extreme cases, loss of federal funding.”
“Many Signature nursing homes haven’t been faring well in these inspections,” Cheves reports. “A Herald-Leader analysis of 42 Signature facilities in Kentucky shows that 25 are rated as “much below average” or “below average” by the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services five-star rating system, which considers quality of patient care, staffing and health inspections.” The average rating for Signature’s 42 homes was “below average.”
One of the “much below average” homes is Signature HealthCare at Jefferson Place in Louisville, which was fined $140,421 in 2018 “after inspectors cited repeated cases of resident neglect that led to physical injuries and personal humiliation,” Cheves reports.
Toby Edelman, senior policy attorney for the Center for Medicare Advocacy in Washington, told Cheves, “It’s troubling that someone from the industry now gets to oversee the industry. I don’t know him personally, so who knows, maybe he’ll turn into a whistle-blower. But generally, I think our regulators should be independent of the industries they regulate and not come from within their ranks. There should not be this revolving door between them, with people moving back and forth. Why not appoint an advocate, someone who cares about the residents and who has a track record of being a little more skeptical of the companies?”
Beshear’s office didn’t respond to Cheves’ request for comment, but acting Health Secretary Eric Friedlander said, “Adam is fully committed to ensuring there is never a conflict of interest and to maintaining absolute integrity within the OIG. The entire OIG team are a vital part of this mission.”
Cheves notes the political activism of the nursing-home industry. A Kentucky Health News search for Signature employees on the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance website found that they gave $500 to his 2015 campaign for attorney general, $6,750 to the 2011 campaign of his father, Gov. Steve Beshear, and $5,000 to the campaign of Republican incumbent Matt Bevin, who lost to Andy Beshear. No contributions to Andy Beshear’s gubernatorial campaign were listed.