September 28, 2009

Report Finds Many US Nursing Homes Underperforming

A Government Accountability Office report has revealed that a Medicare program intended to evaluate the conditions of US nursing homes has overlooked hundreds of unkempt facilities.

According to the Associated Press, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has listed up to 136 nursing homes as "special focus facilities," which means they are inspected more frequently because they have received low grades for their living conditions.

However, a recent report from the GOA found that the Medicare and Medicaid program may have overlooked 580 nursing homes in its evaluation.

The findings could imply that the program's definition for special focus facilities may be too narrow, says Democratic Senator Herb Kohl of Wisconsin, who chairs the Senate Aging Committee.

Kohl and Republican Senator Charles Grassley, of Iowa, requested information for the study, which will be made available on Monday.

He wants to add more precise warnings for facilities that do not reach federal standards, listed in ratings on Medicare's Nursing Home Compare Web site.

"If far more than 136 nursing homes boast the bleakest conditions, then perhaps we should consider expanding" the program, said Kohl.

Currently, the CMS judges the state of nursing homes on a state-by-state level, but the option to evaluate them on a national scale could increase oversight, the GAO advised in its report.

The AP noted that some states have lower standards for nursing home facilities.

"For example, Indiana had 52 nursing homes listed as among the worst performing, but only four are on the special list; California has 40 considered among the worst performing, but only four are on the list," according to the AP.

Additionally, the oversight committee noted that the facilities that had lower standards were usually operating on a for-profit basis and they tend to be larger


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