CMS Nursing Home Web Site Omits Health, Safety Violations
Nursing Home Compare, an online consumer guide of nursing homes prepared by CMS, fails to include "tens of thousands" of reported health and safety violations at nursing homes nationwide, according to a report to be released today by the House Committee on Government Reform. The Washington Post reports that the committee found that between Oct. 1, 2001 and Dec. 31, 2001, more than 25,000 violations reported by state investigations were not included in the Web site's evaluations. According to the Post, in many cases individual nursing homes were "given a clean bill of health" despite "serious code violations" -- including some violations that resulted in deaths (Faler, Washington Post, 2/21). The Wall Street Journal reports that nearly 60% of all nursing homes were cited by state inspectors for "immediate jeopardy" violations -- errors that "had the potential to cause death or serious injury." In all, 871 nursing homes were cited for "immediate jeopardy" violations, but the Web site indicates that just 400 nursing homes committed such acts (Lueck, Wall Street Journal, 2/21). The Nursing Home Compare Web site was launched in 1998 as a way to let consumers research nearly every nursing home nationwide. According to the Post, the site receives nearly 100,000 hits per month. Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), the committee members who requested the report, say the site is inadequate. "The data on the Web site are incomplete and unreliable. The public is not getting good information when they investigate nursing home quality," Waxman said. The Post reports that the Web site "faithfully recorded" all violations reported during annual inspections of every nursing home required by law. However, it "systematically excluded" any violations discovered due to individuals' complaints (Washington Post, 2/21). CMS administrator Tom Scully said his agency plans to include the complaint investigation information on the nursing home Web site "in a couple of months." According to Scully, while the report "has some legitimate points," the data on violations are difficult to add because CMS has to substantiate the claims and make sure they are not counted twice in the tally of violations (Wall Street Journal, 2/21). Still, Scully said, "I look at this as a gentle prod from the Hill in the direction that we're already going" (Washington Post, 2/21).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.