Long-term reporting errors and increased nursing home abuse

| May 18, 2020 | nursing home abuse |

The Government Accountability Office reported an increase in the reported incidents of nursing home abuse. During a recently studied five-year period, reports of negative care grew by more than 200%. 

The actual number of occurrences, however, could be significantly higher. Based on findings from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and noted by the ranking member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Finance, the number of unreported incidents of nursing home abuse is in the thousands. 

Problems in the nursing-home rating system 

According to the GAO study, facilities listed with five-star ratings on the official U.S. government’s Nursing Home Compare website also had reported incidents of abuse. The website, managed by the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, has since updated its listings to inform site viewers of negative care issues. 

As noted on the Medicare.gov website, CMS listings now display a specialized icon next to the names of facilities with recent citations for abuse, neglect or harm. The icon, a hand inside a red circle, encourages families to question a facility’s administrator about the steps taken to prevent future occurrences. 

The Nursing Home Compare rating system, however, may not provide useful information regarding abuse if thousands of incidents go unreported. 

Oregon’s 15 lost years of abuse reporting 

The CMS is the agency tasked with monitoring major U.S. health care programs and detecting problems. The GAO investigation, however, found that over a period of time extending as long as 15 years, the state of Oregon did not provide the agency with information regarding nursing home abuse. 

Oregon’s lack of reporting left the Beaver State’s residents with no reliable way of assessing a facility’s care record from the CMS Nursing Home Compare listings. Many families’ loved ones may have found themselves unknowingly placed in facilities where neglect or abuse has occurred.