Many nursing homes in the United States offer a high level of personal or skilled nursing care for elderly, chronically ill or people with disabilities who are unable to take care of themselves with highly trained, compassionate staff members dedicated to the health and overall well-being of their residents. However, some facilities fall far short of the standards of care that are required. We’ve all heard the horrific reports in the news of nursing home residents being neglected, abused or going without proper nutrition and medication or even those who have suffered in appalling conditions.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) oversee a federal program to reform U.S. nursing homes that consistently underperform or substantially fail to meet the required care standards and resident protections afforded by the Medicare and Medicaid program.
Currently, just .6% (only 88) of these poorly performing facilities out of the more than 15,700 nursing homes nationwide are selected for this program, which includes public identification, frequent surveying and progressive enforcement of the law. An additional 2.5% of facilities (over 400) qualify for the program because they also have been identified as having a “persistent record of poor care,” but they’re not selected for participation due to limited resources at CMS.
Over the past 20 years, more than 900 facilities have been placed on the program candidate list, but candidates can only roll into the program when space allows (i.e., when a facility “graduates” from the program or is terminated from participation in Medicare/Medicaid). CMS provides each state with the list of candidates and relies on the state to fill newly vacated slots in the program. Up until this month, program candidates have been kept hidden from the public.
In response to an inquiry by U.S. Senators Pat Toomey (R-PA) and Bob Casey (D-PA), who were concerned about the safety and performance of nursing homes in their state, CMS provided them with the previously undisclosed candidate list of facilities with documented patterns of poor care. After CMS chose not to release the list publicly, the senators decided to publish both the candidate and the program participant list, along with an informative report to provide more background and context in the interest of providing greater transparency to the American people.
Armed with more information, American families will have the important information they need to make educated decisions concerning the long-term care of their loved ones. As the report indicates, there is a need for continued advocacy, not only for greater transparency into these facilities but to make sure CMS has the tools and funding it needs to oversee all U.S. nursing homes for the protection of residents.
You can read this report and see the list of those nursing homes on the CMS list of candidates and those enrolled in the federal program here: https://www.aging.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/Casey%20Toomey%20SFF%20Report%20June%202019.pdf