The new GAO study found that for-profit nursing homes tend to have more deficiencies than non-profit nursing homes. Private investment (PI) firms’ acquisition of several large nursing home chains led to concerns that the quality of care may have been adversely affected. These concerns may have been in part due to PI firms’ business strategies and their lack of financial transparency compared to publicly traded companies.
In September 2010, GAO reported on the extent of PI ownership of nursing homes and firms’ involvement in the operations of homes they acquired. In this report, GAO examined how nursing homes that were acquired by PI firms changed from before acquisition or differed from other homes in: (1) deficiencies cited on state surveys, (2) nurse staffing levels, and (3) financial performance. GAO identified nursing homes that had been acquired by PI firms from 2004 through 2007 and then used data from CMS’s Online Survey, Certification, and Reporting system and Medicare Skilled Nursing Facility Cost Reports to compare these PI homes to other forprofit and nonprofit homes.
For PI-acquired homes, GAO also compared homes for which the operations and real estate were owned by the same firm to those that were not. Because research has shown that other variables influence deficiencies, staffing, and financial performance, GAO statistically controlled–that is adjusted–for several factors, including the percent of residents for whom the payer is Medicare, facility size, occupancy rate, market competition, and state. Any differences GAO found cannot necessarily be attributed to PI ownership or acquisition.
On average, PI and other for-profit homes had more total deficiencies than nonprofit homes both before (2003) and after (2009) acquisition. PI-acquired homes were also more likely to have been cited for a serious deficiency than nonprofit homes before, but not after, acquisition. Serious deficiencies involve actual harm or immediate jeopardy to residents. From 2003 to 2009, total deficiencies increased and the likelihood of a serious deficiency decreased in PI homes; these changes did not differ significantly from those in other homes.
The financial performance of PI homes showed both cost increases from 2003 to 2008 and higher margins in those years when compared to other for-profit or nonprofit homes. Facility costs as well as capital-related costs for PI homes increased more, on average, from 2003 to 2008 than for other ownership types. In 2008, PI homes reported higher facility costs than other for-profit homes (but lower costs than nonprofit homes) and higher capital-related costs than other ownership types.