1 in 5 nursing homes pull consistently bad ratings

Andrew Van Dam

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism.

USA Today‘s Jack Gillum crunched the numbers and found that one-fifth of U.S. nursing homes have received two consecutive poor (one- or two-star) ratings in the federal Nursing Home Compare database since its launch in 2008.

Gillum looked for homes that started with a poor rating, then received at least one more within the past year. Among other things, Gillum found that “Nearly all homes that repeatedly received few overall stars — one or two stars — were owned by for-profit corporations,” and that “the lowest-rated homes had an average of 14 deficiencies per facility.” Consistent poor-performers can be found in all 50 states.

Gillum found that one of the reasons homes weren’t improving from year to year is that they’re often given little incentive to improve their ratings unless consumers are actively using Nursing Home Compare to inform their decisions.

Medicare spokeswoman Mary Kahn says a one-star nursing home is not necessarily a terrible facility. Even the lowest-rated homes must still meet baseline Medicare conditions, she says.

“If homes are not motivated to get better, chances are they won’t, and you’ll wind up in homes in poor-quality purgatory,” (Larry Minnix, CEO of American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging) says. “There should be two types of homes: the excellent and the non-existent.”

Covering the Health of Local Nursing HomesSlim guide:
Covering the Health of Local Nursing Homes

Check out AHCJ’s latest volume in its ongoing Slim Guide series. This reporting guide gives a head start to journalists who want to pursue stories about one of the most vulnerable populations – nursing home residents. It offers advice about Web sites, datasets, research and other resources. After reading this book, journalists can have more confidence in deciphering nursing home inspection reports, interviewing advocacy groups on all sides of an issue, locating key data, and more. The book includes story examples and ideas.

AHCJ publishes these reporting guides, with the support of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, to help journalists understand and accurately report on specific subjects.

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