Star Rating Can Be Misleading

To The Reader’s Forum:

Judging the quality of care in a nursing home on its star rating alone is misleading. Those who have experience with local nursing homes know which are excellent and which are not.

The Department of Health and Human Services Inspector General released a scathing indictment in February of for-profit nursing homes. “Medicare paid $5.1 Billion for poor skilled nursing care” was the headline. $5.1 BILLION worth of “over-charging, poor care, and fraud” that for-profit nursing homes nationwide were guilty of siphoning off according to the HHS Inspector General (OIG). When the motive is profit, the care of the most vulnerable and defenseless of society is compromised – and so is the cost to society at large.

Here is an excerpt from the HHS report: “The OIG found that one-quarter of all skilled nursing facility (SNF) claims in 2009 were incorrect The majority of the incorrect claims were billed for higher amounts than owed. OIG also found that from 2006 to 2008 , SNFs increasingly billed for more expensive levels of care. For-profit SNFs were far more likely than nonprofitsto bill for expensive levels of care, raising concerns about the validity of the claims. Fraud and problems with the SNF payment system waste taxpayer dollars and threaten the integrity of Medicare. However, issues OIG uncovered with regard to quality of care are even more disturbing. Notably, OIG found that 74% of the facilities surveyed in 2007 had at least one quality-of-care deficiency. A more recent report also identified several egregious examples of poor-quality wound care, medication management, and therapy.”

If for-profits “waste taxpayer’s money” and “give poor care” then public nursing homes are the best option.

The Chautauqua County Home can be yet more viable if the Center for Governmental Research recommendations are adopted. The report shows public operation would cost as little as $6 and $17 per year per household for county residents.

But where does the $8,000 per day cost claimed by the county executive come from? He uses not only the county contribution that is submitted to acquire matching funds, but he also adds in the matching funds returned to the county from the state and federal government in his $8,000 per day figure! That does not include CGR cost cutting or union concessions.

Not-for-profit nursing homes in the area have received enormous grants from the same state and federal sources as the county home matching funds . Government funding favors not-for-profit homes over public homes.

The data provided by the Department of Health and Human Services Inspector General provides evidence that a public nursing home is the best option for safe, economical senior care.

Karen Harvey