AUSTIN (KXAN) — State inspectors are investigating whether Texas nursing homes improperly administered IV vitamin infusions to residents without signed doctor’s orders.
IV, or intravenous therapy, delivers fluids directly into a patient’s vein to rehydrate or administer nutrition to people who cannot consume food or water orally.
According to a quarterly report from the Health and Human Services Office of the Inspector General, a review team determined nursing facilities were using outside vendors to administer vitamin IV treatments to increase reimbursements from Medicaid.
The report accuses these vendors of doing this without signed orders from a physician. According to the report, the vendors neglected to notate “the amount, dosage, and flow rate of the infusions,” along with documentation required by Medicaid policy.
The situation is now under full-scale investigation by the Office of the Inspector General. A spokesperson said they cannot comment on an ongoing investigation or release any information.
Attorney Jason Coomer said Medicaid fraud cases were common and called it the “fastest growing crime in America.” To him, a “full-scale” investigation indicates this situation is serious.
“It means to me that the government sees something that taxpayer money is being wasted — a substantial amount — or people’s lives are in jeopardy,” he said. “The Government doesn’t want a health care provider that just made an honest mistake or was negligent. What they are looking for is intentional fraud, and it needs to be widespread and systematic.”
He represents whistleblowers who come forward to report this type of misconduct, often from inside a facility or organization. In many cases, they are protected by law and entitled to certain rewards.
“It’s so complicated, these schemes,” he said. “The government has found the best way to detect it is to offer bounties or get people with specialized knowledge to come in and say, ‘Hey, I see this,” and then protect those people and give them rewards.”
Mary Nichols mother lives in a Texas nursing home. While he hasn’t heard about any improper IV treatments there or from anyone in the advocacy group she helped start, she has heard from other concerned families. Some said their loved one’s medication dosages were changed. Others worried their resident was even placed on new drugs during the pandemic — all while visitors were banned from entering.
“Those extra eyes are so important,” she said.
Nichols spent seven months watching her mom on her in-room camera and through the nursing home window, worried about what was going on inside. She said the accusations regarding IV vitamin infusions in homes highlighted the importance of access for families.
“Before, we would notice anything out of the ordinary, any type of medical equipment that’s not normally in there,” Nichols said.
She fought for Texas to adopt the Essential Family Caregiver plan, which allows two people per resident access to nursing facilities, with the proper PPE and training. The Health and Human Services Commission instituted these new guidelines several weeks ago, but Nichols said she still knows families who haven’t been allowed inside facilities.
“We’re there for more than just hugs,” she said.