Hillary and Harkin Introduce Bill to Force Disclosure of Names of Worst Nursing Homes

As someone with a parent in a nursing home, I am very glad to learn that Hillary Clinton and Tom Harkin (D-IA) have introduced a bill "that would force a federal agency to make public its list of the nation's worst nursing homes."

The U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has compiled a list of 128 nursing homes that have repeatedly fallen in and out of compliance with government health and safety regulations and caused harm to their residents. Those so-called "special-focus facilities" are now subject to more frequent government inspections.

Two weeks ago, the agency released an abbreviated, public version of the list that identified only 52 of the facilities. The agency refused to release the full list of 128 homes, even though it had already provided the full list to nursing home association lobbyists at the American Health Care Association.

The lobbying group that got the full list is the Alliance for Quality Nursing Home Care. [More...]

As to why a call for release of the list and demand letter is not enough:

Clinton and Harkin introduced the Nursing Home Quality and Transparency Act in the Senate last week. Clinton said the proposed law would ensure that the public has access to the names of all nursing homes designated as special-focus facilities.

"It is absolutely inexcusable that CMS has withheld this information from seniors and their families who are making critical life decisions about long-term care," Clinton said in a statement. "Even more disturbing are press reports that CMS has shared this information with nursing home industry lobbyists, but not with the public."

The legislation provides:

.... that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services shall disclose within 30 days the names of all nursing homes that appear on the full list of special-focus facilities.

The agency's excuse for releasing the names only to the trade organization:

[Agency spokeswoman Mary] Kahn has said the agency's "goal in releasing the list of facilities to the nursing home trade groups was to challenge them to police themselves, not as lobbyists, but in their role as technical advisers to their members. We view these groups as part of the chain of accountability for poor-performing nursing homes."

In related news, the Carlyle Group's planned takeover of Manor Care, the largest nursing home chain in the country, is getting closer scrutiny in several states.

The deal has drawn organized protests from consumer and labor groups fearing that pressure for greater profits will worsen care for senior citizens and conditions for employees. In West Virginia, a state authority on Friday will reconsider its prior approval of the deal after a request from a union.

....Manor Care has seven facilities in West Virginia, according to the company, and does not intend to close the buyout without approval from all states where it operates, a spokesman said.

Illinois is another state that has held hearings. There may be hearings in Wisconsin and Michigan:

West Virginia regulators are reconsidering their approval of the license transfers, Florida officials want more information on some of the homes, Wisconsin legislators have promised hearings, and the SEIU said this week it has asked Michigan regulators to delay approval of the license transfers needed to finalize the transaction.

Funding for the $6.3 billion takeover has been pushed back to March, 2008. The opposition by the SEUI union is having a major effect.

Manor care has more than 500 nursing homes and rehab centers as well as assisted living places, under the names Heartland, ManorCare Health Services and Arden Courts.

Private equity buyouts of nursing homes is scary. The SEIU website has more.

I'm really glad to see Hillary so engaged on the issue of nursing home care.

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  • Display: Sort:
    Industry Guarddog (none / 0) (#1)
    by squeaky on Sun Dec 16, 2007 at 12:44:41 PM EST
    The head of U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has very close ties to the insurance industry. It is no wonder that he would prefer that his business partners police themselves. :
    What is of more concern is not just Leavitt's investment worth $5 million to $25 million in Leavitt Group Enterprises - the 27th largest insurance broker in the U.S., where he used to serve as chief operating officer - but his continued personal relationship to "the family business." In addition to having several family members on the Board of Directors, Leavitt's brother, Dane Leavitt, continues to be the president and CEO of the family insurance firm, which underwrites personal and property liability lines of insurance including but not limited to Medicare supplements (Medigap policies) and medical malpractice insurance plans - two health areas that would be directly affected by priorities that Leavitt has mentioned are on his would-be agenda.


    heaven forbid that the taxpayer's, (none / 0) (#2)
    by cpinva on Mon Dec 17, 2007 at 12:40:06 AM EST
    those actually footing the bill for the accumulation of this list, be privy to it. why, who the heck do we think we are, anyway?

    i understand that the next list to be given out, only to the "henhouse foxes national association", is the one with the names of all farms not having sufficient security in the chicken coops.