About 1.3 million Americans are nursing home residents, cared for in more than 15,700 facilities. At least 400 facilities nationwide had a “persistent record of poor care” as of April, but they were not included along with a shorter list of homes that get increased federal scrutiny and do have warning labels, according to a Senate report released. The Trump Administration has kept secret the names of hundreds of nursing homes around the country found by inspectors to have serious ongoing health, safety or sanitary problems.
Budget cuts cause the problem by reducing money available for the focused inspections that are required for nursing homes on the shorter list, according to documents and interviews. As recently as 2010, there was room for 167 nursing homes in the special focus program and 835 candidates. That’s now down to as many as 88 special focus slots and up to 440 candidates. Federal budget cuts in 2014 reduced the number of available slots.
The secrecy undermines the federal commitment to ensure transparency for families struggling to find nursing homes for loved ones and raises questions about why the names of some homes are not disclosed while others are publicly identified.
“We’ve got to make sure any family member or any potential resident of a nursing home can get this information, not only ahead of time but on an ongoing basis,” said Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., who along with Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., issued the report.
“When a family makes the hard decision to seek nursing home services for a loved one, they deserve to know if a facility under consideration suffers from systemic shortcomings,” said Toomey.
The senators released a list provided them by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, or CMS, of nursing homes with documented problems whose names were not publicly disclosed by the government. The report and list were provided exclusively to The Associated Press and to PennLive.com.
CMS does publicly disclose names of a smaller group of about 80 nursing homes that are getting special scrutiny to help them resolve documented quality problems. They’re in what’s called the Special Focus Facility program. Nursing homes that don’t improve can be cut off by Medicare and Medicaid. The nearly 400 facilities that are candidates for the shorter list “qualify for the program because they are identified as having a ‘persistent record of poor care’ but are not selected for participation as a result of limited resources at (CMS),” said the report from Casey and Toomey.
In a statement, CMS said its starred ratings on the Nursing Home Compare website are already the best yardstick “for consumers to understand and use.” About 2,900 nursing homes have the lowest one-star overall rating.