February 21, 2002
Report: Nursing Home Web Site Flawed
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Filed at 12:02 a.m. ET
WASHINGTON (AP) -- A government Web site that compares nursing homes for consumers omits tens of thousands of health violations, according to a report done by House Democrats.
The ``Nursing Home Compare'' Web site, maintained by the Department of Health and Human Services, includes a searchable database that allows the public to determine the compliance status of nursing homes throughout the United States.
But the site, which receives 100,000 visits a month and is the most popular destination for individuals who view the Medicare home page, only contains violations found during annual inspections of nursing homes conducted by state officials. It does not contain violations found during complaint investigations, according to a report being released Thursday by the Democratic staff of the House Government Reform Committee.
Complaint investigations are initiated when a nursing home resident, family member, employee or other individual files a formal complaint with a state regulatory agency.
According to the report, states investigated 52,000 complaints about conditions in nursing homes between Oct. 1, 2000 and Dec. 31, 2001. Investigators documented 25,204 violations of federal health standards from those complaints. All of those violations are excluded from the ``Nursing Home Compare'' Web site, the report said.
During the same period, 871 nursing homes were cited for immediate jeopardy violations, which have the potential to cause death or serious injury. Over half of those homes are not identified on the Web site as having any immediate jeopardy violations.
Rep. Henry Waxman of California, the committee's ranking Democrat, and Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, called on Medicare administrator Tom Scully to immediately correct the Web site. Grassley also had requested the report.
``The data on the Web site are incomplete and unreliable,'' Waxman said. ``Many nursing homes that appear to have clean records ... actually had serious problems.''
Grassley added: ``Anyone who's tried to find a nursing home for a family member knows how hard it is to get useful information about the quality of care in a particular nursing home.''
``The federal Web site is one of the few tools available to nursing home consumers, and as such, it has to be accurate, complete and easy to use,'' Grassley said.
Scully said federal officials were working to include the additional information and may have the new data on the Web site in a few month. ``We are completely committed to putting out as much consumer information as we can,'' he said.
The Web site was started in 1998 to provide the public with information about nursing homes that serve Medicare or Medicaid beneficiaries. Information on over 16,000 nursing homes is currently provided through the site.
On the Net:
Nursing Home Compare: http://www.medicare.gov/NHCompare/home.asp
Government Reform Committee-Minority Office: http://www.house.gov/reform/min/