U.S. News & World Report recently released its 2022-2023 nursing home ratings, which revealed major differences in its assessments compared with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid’s (CMS) star rating system. The media company found that only a small portion of the nation’s 15,000 nursing homes were high performing in short- or long-term rehabilitation, and only a few hundred were high performing in both.
COVID-related nursing home cases and deaths are on the rise again, according to recently published data on AARP’s COVID-19 dashboard. And while these rates are nowhere near the levels of 2020 or early 2021, it’s still a troublesome sign that new COVID variants are making their way into facilities tasked with caring for vulnerable older adults.
Rates of COVID-19 cases and deaths rose in June for the second month in a row — with resident cases increasing by 27% for the four weeks ending June 19. That means about one in every 35 nursing home residents nationally tested positive. Staff positivity rates increased by 42% in the same period — about one in every 28. It’s not clear, however, whether staff were infected in the community or contracted COVID in the nursing home. Death rates are trending up too — increasing by about 54% in June compared with the previous month, according to AARP’s data, which is culled from Information on COVID-19 reported by nursing homes to the CDC’s National Healthcare Safety Network (NHSN).
Journalists can use this data to closely follow trends in their state, or even drill down to an individual facility level.
“We’ve actually had increasing cases for a couple of months now,” said Ari Houser, AARP senior methods advisor and lead data analyst on their nursing home COVID dashboard. “Preliminary CDC data through July 17 shows the trend continuing upward, so we’re not at the peak yet.”
It took a pandemic and tens of thousands of deaths before most people became aware of just how bad circumstances were in many U.S. nursing homes. Long-term care residents bore the brunt of COVID-19 cases and deaths, particularly in the early days of the crisis. The Biden administration wants the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid to tighten standards and oversight to avoid anything like this from happening again.
While the initiative only got passing mention in the March 1 State of the Union address, the White House released a lengthy fact sheet ahead of the speech, detailing several key initiatives it’s directing CMS to implement:
- Increasing minimum staffing requirements.
- Reducing resident room overcrowding.
- Strengthening the Skilled Nursing Facility (SNF) Value-Based Purchasing (VBP) Program.
- Reinforcing Safeguards against Unnecessary Medications and Treatments, actions they say “will improve the safety and quality of nursing home care, hold nursing homes accountable for the care they provide.”
- Making the quality of care and facility ownership more transparent so that potential residents and their loved ones can make informed decisions about care.
More than 200,000 residents and staff in nursing homes have died from COVID-19 — nearly a quarter of all COVID-19 deaths in the United States, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. Despite current regulations, The Government Accountability Office found that from 2013 to 2017, 82% of all inspected nursing homes had an infection prevention and control deficiency, including a lack of regular handwashing, that was identified through Medicare and Medicaid surveys.
Racial disparities are glaringly obvious when examining COVID-19 caseloads, hospitalizations and deaths. A new study in JAMA Open looks at how these inequalities in the general population may also be associated with differences in mortality among nursing home residents with a COVID-19 infection.
In a cross-sectional study of 13,312 U.S. nursing homes, University of Chicago researchers found that COVID-19 death counts were 3.3-fold higher in facilities with the highest proportions of non-white residents than in facilities with mostly white residents. This difference in mortality was associated with a combination of differences in facility characteristics and location. Continue reading
Private equity firms are in the business of making money. On the surface, there is nothing wrong with that. However, a disturbing story in The Washington Post alleges that when private equity is involved in the buying and selling of nursing homes, things are often worse than they seem.