In December 2017, the Michigan State University Board of Trustees authorized the establishment of a $10 million fund to pay for counseling for survivors of abuse by Larry Nassar. The fund is called the Healing Assistance Fund and was set up early in 2018. It is separate from a May 2018 $500 million settlement agreement between MSU and Nassar survivors.
Who and what is the fund for?
Nassar survivors, or a parent of a Nassar survivor, are eligible to be reimbursed for treatment provided by a licensed therapist as long as they are claiming out of pocket expenses, and not expenses for treatment reimbursable by insurance. That’s according to MSU spokesperson Emily Guerrant.
Guerrant said these have been the criteria for the fund from its beginning. She said these criteria were communicated to Commonwealth Mediation and Conciliation, Inc., a Massachusetts firm hired by MSU to administer the fund.
But there could be some confusion about who is covered.
In March, Michigan Radio reported that MSU’s website about the Healing Assistance Fund told survivors to call Bernie Fitzgerald in Boston if they wanted to get reimbursed for therapy. Fitzgerald was hired by Commonwealth to help run the MSU fund. According to Fitzgerald, the treatment expenses of a spouse of a Nassar survivor could be covered if a mental health professional said the spouse had been emotionally affected by their partner’s abuse and would benefit from therapy.
When and why was the fund frozen and for how long?
MSU froze the Healing Assistance Fund in July when Commonwealth raised concerns about possible fraudulent claims. That means MSU has suspended reimbursement payments until an investigation into the potential fraud has been completed.
According to Guerrant, MSU has asked Commonwealth to produce, for any claim of more than $10,000, documentation showing that treatment was provided by a licensed professional and that the claim was for an out of pocket expense.
Guerrant said MSU has turned over the investigation of potential fraud to the MSU police because “we believe a crime has been committed.”
MSU is not saying how big the problem is or why it has been necessary to halt all reimbursements since July. Guerrant said because of the ongoing investigation, she could not say how many claims against the fund are thought to be potentially fraudulent or how many total claims have been paid or submitted since the fund was initially set up.
According to Guerrant, the MSU police have not indicated when their investigation will be completed.
What’s the controversy about Commonwealth’s audit of claims?
An attorney for some Nassar survivors claims that Commonwealth has violated some of the survivors’ medical privacy by contacting providers and asking for protected health information. Commonwealth denies this allegation and MSU says it expects that all health care privacy and privacy laws are being followed in Commonwealth’s collection of documentation to make sure the criteria set up for the fund have been met.
What happens to eligible people who’ve incurred reimbursable expenses while the fund has been frozen?
According to Guerrant, once the investigation is complete, they can put in claims for eligible expenses that have not been reimbursed while the fund has been closed.
How much of the $10 million fund has been distributed since it was set up in January 2018?
Guerrant said, “As of the end of June, we’d paid out a little over one million dollars.”