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Report finds most nursing homes exaggerate their staffing levels

A recent study shows that most nursing homes have been exaggerating their staffing levels for years.

A recent front-page report done by the New York Times has shown that most nursing homes across the United States routinely exaggerate their staffing levels to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). The report analyzed payroll data from nursing homes and compared that data with what nursing homes had previously self-reported to CMS. With lower staffing, residents at nursing homes are more likely to suffer from neglect and abuse due to a lack of well-trained nurses and aides on hand to care to their needs adequately.

Two different staffing levels

CMS assigns a star rating to nursing homes and those star ratings are often used by prospective residents and their families when determining which nursing home is likeliest to provide the best care. Staffing levels are a big factor in determining a nursing home's star rating. Until last year, nursing homes were allowed to self-report staff levels to CMS. Without any way to verify that such self-reported data was true, it was easy for nursing homes to exaggerate staffing levels as a way of getting a higher star rating.

However, 2010's Affordable Care Act required nursing homes to begin supplying payroll data so that CMS could verify staffing levels. An analysis of that data by the New York Times showed that about 70 percent of the 14,000 nursing homes rated by CMS had lower staffing levels than they had previously claimed. On average, staffing levels were 12 percent lower using payroll data than when using self-reported data. Staffing levels were more likely to be especially low on weekends.

Calls for Congressional hearings

Low staffing levels put residents at risk, especially on days when nurses and aides can be hard to find. The report said at one New York nursing home there was an aide for every eight residents on the best-staffed days, but that ratio plummeted to one aide for every 18 residents on the lowest staffed days. Residents who are not getting the proper amount of attention from nurses and aides are more likely to develop bedsores, malnutrition, and suffer preventable injuries.

Unfortunately, even with the new payroll data being used to determine staffing levels, most nursing homes will retain the same star ratings as before. That's because nursing homes are graded on a bell curve in comparison to one another.

As McKnight's Long Term Care News reports, the study has led to calls for Congressional action. The bipartisan Elder Justice Coalition has asked for Congress to hold hearings on making changes to CMS's star-rating system and to investigate CMS's response to staff shortages.

Nursing home abuse and neglect

The potential for neglect at nursing homes is, as the above study suggests, widespread. Those whose loved ones may have been victims of nursing home abuse and neglect should get in touch with an attorney. An experienced attorney can advocate for the rights of nursing home abuse victims and help them receive whatever compensation they may be entitled to.

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