100s of Low-Quality Nursing Homes Hidden by CMS: Should You Be Concerned?

If you have an elderly loved one living in a nursing home, then you may have reason to be concerned for their safety. Recently, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) released a list of hundreds of nursing homes that are considered poor quality and potentially dangerous for residents living there.

Currently, there are more than 1.3 million people living in nursing homes across the country. This number is only going to balloon in the coming years as the average age of the general population starts to climb. Would it then be safe to assume that more and more people are going to be unknowingly placed in unsafe nursing homes?

Bipartisan Effort Reveals the Truth

It was a political move from Pennsylvania Senator Bob Casey, Democrat, and Pennsylvania Senator Patrick Toomey, Republican, that tipped the CMS into revealing its hidden list of poor nursing homes. Why would the CMS, a government agency formed to rate and review nursing homes with the explicit purpose of helping seniors avoid dangerous living situations, hide this information in the first place? It turns out a bit of a legal loophole drew the curtains.

Low-quality nursing homes on the list – which you can see in full by clicking here and opening the Senators’ official report – were qualified to be a part of the federal Special Focus Facility (SFF) program. Nursing homes in the SFF program are considered underperforming and, therefore, get extra attention from the CMS to help them improve. Also, SFF program nursing homes are revealed to the public.

It is typical for underperforming nursing homes to put seniors at risk of elder abuse, such as:

  • Physical abuse
  • Sexual assault
  • Neglect
  • Poor nutrition
  • Unsafe living conditions
  • Wrongful death

However, nearly 400 nursing homes that were “bad enough” to be in the SFF program were not included to due budget limitations. Thus, the names of these hundreds of assisted living centers  nursing homes were never released to the public on the SFF list.

Instead, the qualifying nursing homes were left indistinguishable from other nursing homes on CMS lists. Any number of people looking to find a permanent home for their senior loved ones may have elected these nursing homes, not knowing they were considered among the worst out there by the CMS itself.

Is the Government Working to Protect Homes, Not Elders?

Many people have seen the list as a real cause for outcry, and they are not farfetched. The executive director of the National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care, Lori Smetanka, quickly criticized the CMS for keeping the critical information to itself due to a program loophole.

There is also reason to be concerned about how the Trump Administration will act with this new information. Early in the Trump Presidency, moves were made to weaken fines brought against nursing homes in violation, undoing the Obama Administration’s efforts to punish negligent offenders. Perhaps to try to save face, the CMS has claimed it “welcomes” the closer inspection of its programs and that it “prioritizes” the care of seniors. How or if it intends to back those claims with new efforts following the list’s release is not apparent at this time.

Is the Danger of Poor Nursing Homes Actually Real?

Unfortunately, yes. Underperforming nursing homes put elders in real danger of abuse, neglect, and harm.

Some of the nursing homes revealed in the report have recent records of unacceptable tragedies. For example, a Georgia woman eloped from her living facility and nearly got hit by a train. A facility in Texas prepared food for its residents despite a sewage backup spilling into the kitchen area. An elderly resident in Michigan passed away after a catheter was incorrectly removed and he bled out.

The dangers are real, and they are hurting elders across the country every day. How the government and the CMS intend to address those dangers, though, is anyone’s guess.

(The Los Angeles Times recently posted a full article about the CMS list of underperforming nursing homes. You can click here to read it. Login information may be required.)

What Can You Do to Stop Nursing Home Abuse?

Right now, you have the power to help prevent nursing home abuse and protect your elderly loved ones from it. You can begin by using the official CMS tool called “Nursing Home Compare” to look for well-rated nursing homes. Although, it is understandable if you are a little hesitant to take the CMS’s word on it now that we all know they were keeping underperforming nursing homes in their back pocket. (You can find the search tool here: https://www.medicare.gov/nursinghomecompare/search.html).

You can also take direction action against an underperforming nursing home by filing a lawsuit after it causes your elderly loved one to suffer. Every senior has the right to adequate and acceptable care while in a nursing home, and a violation of industry and medical standards can be met with a claim. Law firms like Berberian Ain LLP in Glendale are proudly championing for elders and their families, pursuing justice and fair compensation wherever it is deserved.