Nursing homes were houses of horror

By James Quiggle
January 29, 2013

fomsept2012Hundreds of low-income seniors starved from malnutrition, and were surrounded by rodents and rotting garbage in George Houser’s nursing homes.

The Sandy Springs, Ga. man’s facilities were little more than houses of horror. He raked in $32 million in bogus Medicare and Medicaid claims while providing virtually none of the services for which he billed taxpayers.

Houser had a high-flying lifestyle while he deserted the vulnerable, low-income residents who depended on him for decent, dignified lives.

Meanwhile, the Harvard-law grad spent more than $4.2 million in stolen insurance money on real estate for a hotel complex he planned to build.

Houser also treated his ex-wife to a $1.4-million house instead of paying her alimony. He snuck his current wife Rhonda a sweetheart salary as a nursing-home employee even though she never showed up. Mercedes-Benzes, fancy furniture and vacations all were paid for with taxpayer money.

All the while, residents lived on near-starvation food shortages. Roofs leaked, and there were hardly any nursing or housekeeping supplies.

Foul odors, flies, mosquitos and rodents infested the home.

He didnʼt even pay food suppliers, pharmacy vendors, clinical labs, medical waste disposal, trash disposal or nursing supplies.

Roofs in two homes leaked so badly that employees used barrels and plastic sheeting to catch and divert rainwater. Soaked ceiling panels tumbled onto residentsʼ beds.

Houser stopped paying for trash collection as well, and rotting garbage piled up around the dumpsters.

Mold and mildew spread inside the homes. Houser didnʼt replace broken air conditioning and heating units. Washing machines, clothes dryers and hot water heaters were in disrepair.

Frustrated employees used their own money to buy groceries, nursing supplies and cleaning material. They also washed residentsʼ soiled clothing at their own homes or local laundromats.

Morris Ellison died of malnourishment, dehydration and an untreated broken hip, the medical examiner testified at Houser’s trial. Her daughter also sued him and earned a $43.5-million jury verdict.

Among the other victims: Houser has two children whoʼll have to make do without their father — and maybe their mother. Rhonda pleaded guilty last December, and will be sentenced later.

Houser also stole health premiums heʼd taken from employee wages. Their health coverage thus lapsed for nonpayment. Their paychecks also bounced.

Many staffers were stuck with large medical bills for surgery and other medical treatment.

Houser spent the stolen insurance money money for fancy vacations. But his next trip wasn’t as pleasant: The court handed him 20 years in federal prison.

“It almost defies the imagination to believe that someone would use millions of dollars in Medicare and Medicaid money to buy real estate for hotels and a house while his elderly and defenseless nursing home residents went hungry and lived in filth and mold,” said U.S. Attorney Sally Quillian Yates.

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