"This one's for you, Albertina," Fernandez said. "I had promised it for her birthday."
Fernandez said she has lodged a complaint with the bank manager and showed him proof from the funeral home of her death. She wondered whether the nursing home billed Medicaid for the government's portion of the bill.
Whether Vega's is an isolated case is unclear. The state's Agency for Health Care Administration, which regulates nursing homes, would not comment on whether Hollywood Hills billed Medicaid after the facility was shut down or whether, like Vega, other deceased victims or residents who survived had been billed.
"The agency cannot comment on any inquiries related to a specific recipient due to federal and state privacy laws," said Shelisha Coleman, an agency spokeswoman. "The facility in question was suspended from the Medicaid program in September and therefore cannot charge Medicaid either directly or through Medicaid health plans."
Nursing home attorneys could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
Vega was the first of the victims who died Sept. 13 inside the overheated facility or at Memorial Regional Hospital across the street. The eight residents who died that day were living on the second floor of the nursing home, which had no functioning air conditioning for three days.
Six more nursing home residents died in later days. Police are still considering them part of the caseload of deaths linked to the sweltering conditions inside Hollywood Hills.
Hollywood police and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement have launched a criminal investigation into the deaths.
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