RED ALERT: Flagging Nursing Homes with a History of Mistreatment
December 10th, 2019 | Brian Q. McDonnell
Choosing a nursing home for a loved one can be a complex, emotional decision. Fortunately, there’s a wealth of information on the internet that can help with your decision-making process.
In 2008 the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) launched a five-star rating system of nursing homes as part of the Nursing Home Compare website. The site details the quality of care at all CMS-certified nursing homes, which currently number over 1,500. (Nursing homes not certified by Medicare or Medicaid are not included on Nursing Home Compare. Those nursing homes may be licensed by a state.)
CMS recently enhanced the Nursing Home Compare website with the addition of a red consumer alert icon. It’s part of an effort to improve nursing home safety and quality in light of an increasing number of nursing home complaints and citations.
According to the HHS Office of the Inspector General (OIG) nursing home complaints received by states have climbed from 32.7 per 1,000 residents in 2011 to 52 per 1,000 residents in 2018. Nearly half the 71,602 complaints handled in 2018 were considered “high-priority” because they described circumstances that caused or could have caused actual harm to residents. In addition, a June 2019 Government Accountability Office report indicated that abuse deficiencies cited in nursing homes more than doubled, increasing from 430 in 2013 to 875 in 2017, with the largest increase in severe cases.
The new icon makes it easier to quickly identify nursing homes with past citations for abuse. Consumers using the Nursing Home Compare website will see the consumer alert icon next to the name of the facilities that have been cited on inspection reports for one or both of the following:
• abuse that led to harm of a resident within the past year
• abuse that could have potentially led to harm of a resident in each of the last two years
CMS defines abuse as “the willful infliction of injury, unreasonable confinement, intimidation or punishment with resulting physical harm, pain or mental anguish. It includes verbal abuse, sexual abuse, physical abuse, and mental abuse”.
It is believed that the consumer alert icon will appear on the listings of approximately 5% of the facilities on the website. To ensure CMS is providing the latest information, the consumer alert status will be updated monthly, at the same time CMS inspection results are updated.
Although the consumer alert icon features a hand in the “halt” position, CMS indicates that the icon means “caution – individuals should investigate further”. The Center for Medicare Advocacy cautions that the absence of an alert icon on Nursing Home Compare does not necessarily indicate the absence of abuse. There are documented instances of state survey agencies (health inspectors) having missed problems or failing to cite violations.
HKQ Law supports initiatives that create a safer environment for nursing home residents. “We believe that it is everyone's responsibility to ensure that our senior citizens are treated with the care and dignity they deserve.” says HKQ Law personal injury attorney Brian Q. McDonnell.
If you believe that a loved one has suffered a substantial injury as a result of nursing home abuse or neglect, contact an HKQ Law personal injury attorney at (800) 760-1529.