The Trump administration on Tuesday warned nursing homes that they will face repercussions for unlawfully seizing economic impact payments from seniors.
In a post on Twitter, Seema Verma, administrator for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, said care centers engaging in this behavior will be subject to enforcement action.
Last month, the Federal Trade Commission told consumers they should be on the lookout for nursing homes and senior living facilities that were requiring residents to sign over the payments as a means to pay for services.
The payments are not able to be counted as income or resources for the purpose of federal benefit programs, like Medicaid.
On Monday, House Ways and Means Chairman Richard Neal, D-Mass., and House Energy and Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone, D-NJ, wrote a letter to CMS asking it to issue guidance to make sure care facilities – and residents – are aware that the payments are not able to be seized.
“Given the public health and financing implications of this trend, we believe CMS has a role to play in ensuring consumers and facilities are informed of their rights and obligations, and that facilities comply with the law," they wrote. "Therefore, we request that CMS issue guidance to nursing homes and residents on the status of these checks and their independence from residents’ Medicaid status.”
Nursing homes have become a major focus in the fight against coronavirus, given the vulnerability of residents to becoming seriously ill. Neal and Pallone mentioned that about one-third of virus-related deaths in the U.S. have stemmed from long-term care facilities.
As previously reported by FOX Business, state officials previously raised concerns that debt collectors may try to seize payments.
Twenty-five state attorneys general requested that the government stipulate that the coronavirus relief payments would not be subject to garnishment by creditors and debt collectors.
The economic impact payments will be $1,200 per adult for those with adjusted gross incomes of up to $75,000. The threshold for married couples is $150,000 – they are eligible for $2,400 and $500 per child.
The only lawful reason an economic impact payment may be offset is for past-due child support.
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