About 1.3 million Americans receive care each day in nursing homes certified by either Medicare or Medicaid or both according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. Low staffing levels, inadequate oversight and documented hazards are just some of the reasons for substandard nursing home care in America. For the frail and vulnerable, those deficiencies can mean the difference between life and death. Washington state has 221 nursing homes. Nearly three-quarters of our nursing homes are for profit homes and only 23 percent have fewer than 60 beds (a quarter have more than 120 beds). Twenty-nine percent of Washington’s nursing homes received a 1 or 2-star rating. Conversely, 52 percent received a 4 or 5-star rating. Medicare’s updated nursing home ratings can be found here.
In 1987, due to the concern about the quality of care in those nursing homes, Congress enacted the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (OBRA-87). The act addressed nurse training and evaluation and created a registry for nurse aides. Then in 2008, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) launched the Five-Star Quality Rating System to provide consumers information to help them choose a nursing home. In February of this year, CMS changed the star ratings system and instituted special unannounced on-site inspections to provide consumers with better measurements for comparing and choosing among nursing homes.
The Kaiser Family Foundation recently released its report on the state of American nursing homes. Amongst its key findings was that 39 percent of all nursing homes certified by Medicare or Medicaid have low overall star ratings of 2 or even 1 star (the lowest possible score). They also found that 45 percent of nursing homes rated either 4 or 5 stars (the highest possible score). For profit nursing homes tend to have lower star ratings than not for profit nursing homes and ratings tend to be higher for self-reported measures than for measures derived from state inspections.
The report found that nursing home deficiencies and citations continue to be a prevalent problem despite the star rating system. Multiple studies have shown that significant portions of America’s frail and vulnerable receive care in nursing homes cited with deficiencies serious enough to cause harm or immediate jeopardy.
Sometimes a nursing home is the best housing option but it isn’t the only option for aging Americans. If you are looking for ways to avoid institutional care, attend one of our free seminars and discover what options are available.