Spotlight Team probe: Potential Medicaid discrimination at Massachusetts nursing homes

The replies etched a clear pattern. Nursing homes were more than twice as likely to say they had no room when responding to inquiries from families saying they planned to pay for care with Medicaid — the government health program relied on by low-income residents — rather than paying privately.

Often the difference wasn’t subtle. In some cases, employees from the same facility would tell the daughter of a purported Medicaid applicant that there was a waiting list, while telling the daughter of a private payer, who could be expected to pay the nursing home nearly twice as much, she would be happy to discuss the options.

Discrimination against applicants covered by Medicaid has existed for years in the nursing home industry, say advocates for the elderly, and it can be illegal.

Massachusetts adopted explicit protections in 1994, barring nursing homes from discriminating against “any Medicaid recipient or person eligible

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