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CMS Releases List of Nursing Homes It Says Are Poor Performers

By John Reichard, CQ HealthBeat Editor

November 29, 2007 -- The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) on Thursday released the names of 54 nursing home facilities it rates among the nation's "poorest performers" in terms of quality of care. The release is intended to "promote more rapid and substantial improvement in the quality of care in identified nursing homes and end the pattern of repeated cycles of non-compliance" with quality standards, said acting CMS Administrator Kerry Weems.

Release of the names was prompted by the number of facilities consistently providing poor quality care, but that were periodically making enough improvements to pass an inspection only to fail the next one for many of the same problems identified previously. "Such facilities with a yo-yo compliance history rarely addressed underlying systemic problems that were giving rise to repeated cycles of serious deficiencies," the news release said.

The 54 were among a group of facilities designated as "special focus facilities." Government agencies conduct twice as many inspections of those facilities and apply increasingly strict enforcement until they either improve significantly, or are granted more time to comply with quality standards because of "promising developments," or are banned from the Medicare or Medicaid program or both. CMS said that under this "progressive enforcement" status, "the severity of penalties will increase over time, ranging from civil monetary penalties, denial of payment for new admissions, and, ultimately, removal" from the programs.

Rep. Pete Stark, D-Calif., praised CMS for releasing the names but wondered why it didn't also publicize all 128 facilities with the "special focus" designation. Stark added that facilities are making it harder by shielding assets and establishing certain ownership structures to hold them accountable for their care. "This disturbing trend provides additional impetus for Congress to do what hasn't been done in two decades: enact legislation to protect nursing home patients," Stark said.

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