Worst Nursing Home List Now OnlineFeb 13, 2008 | Parker Waichman LLP
Nursing home abuse and nursing home negligence is a growing problem in the US, but now there is a new tool available to help families avoid the worst nursing homes. The Bush administration finally published the names of 131 of the nation’s worst nursing homes. The administration initially tried to protect the deficient nursing homes, claiming some of the facilities were already showing signs of improvement. But that decision drew the ire of congress, elderly advocates and others who said consumers needed the list to protect loved ones from nursing home abuse and negligence. the list was ultimately released by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and represents those troubled facilities that are cited as being a "special focus facility," a designation used to identify facilities needing increased oversight. For these nursing homes, states conduct inspections at six-month intervals rather than annually.
Last November, the government released only a partial list of 54 nursing homes that ranked among the worst in their states, however, a group of Democratic lawmakers pushed for full disclosure. CMS said Tuesday it was publishing the names after cross checking information to ensure they released the most accurate data. CMS will update its list of negligent nursing homes on a quarterly basis, with its next release scheduled for April.
"This is the latest in a series of steps we will be taking to improve quality and oversight in nursing homes," said Kerry Weems, CMS acting administrator. "We are issuing more information on special focus facilities to better equip beneficiaries, their families, and caregivers to make informed decisions and stimulate robust improvements in nursing homes having not improved their quality of care. This should just be one of the tools," Weems added. "There is no substitute for visiting the nursing home in person."
The list released Tuesday shows 52 nursing homes as not showing improvement after they were cited as being a higher-risk nursing home, while another 52 indicated some improvement. Twenty-seven nursing homes were added to the list in the last six months. Of the original 54 nursing homes disclosed as poor performers last November, 21 have shown some improvement, CMS said, adding that publicity about the problems might have played a factor in the changes.
There are about 16,400 nursing homes nationwide and taxpayers spend about $72.5 billion annually to subsidize nursing home care.
While most nursing homes have some deficiencies, with the average being six to seven deficiencies per survey, the “special focus facilities” exhibited about double that amount and continue to have problems over a long period of time. Each state determines which nursing homes should receive the designation; inspection standards vary among the states.
The offenses that land a facility in the “special focus” category typically involve unnecessary use of medication for elderly residents or inadequate safeguards to protect residents, such as those with Alzheimer's disease, from day-to-day hazards in the nursing home.
Senator Herb Kohl (Democrat-Wisconsin), who chairs the Senate Special Committee on Aging, praised CMS' move saying, "We believe that Americans should have access to as much information about a nursing home as possible," he said. "We also agree that giving consumers more information about our nation's nursing homes is a good idea, but that doing so in a manner that causes a panic is not."
The document containing the nursing homes cited can be accessed at: http://www.cms.hhs.gov/CertificationandComplianc/Downloads/SFFList.pdf