CMS bringing transparency to nursing home abuse

The CMS on Monday announced that it would make it easier for consumers to find out about nursing homes that have violated rules about abuse, neglect or exploitation.

The agency's Nursing Home Compare website will add an icon next to nursing homes with reported violations starting on Oct. 23. The website provides detailed information about each Medicare- and Medicaid-certified nursing home in the U.S.

While consumers can already learn about nursing home violations through health inspection reports available through the website, the CMS said they're too difficult to access now and that the new icon will make it easier for consumers to find out about abuse citations.

The icon will warn consumers about the harmful abuse of a resident within the past year and potentially harmful abuse of a resident during the last two years. The CMS said it will update the data monthly and that the information will supplement the nursing home five-star ratings, which provide more information about the quality of a nursing home facility.

The change is part of the agency's initiative launched in April to ensure nursing home quality and safety, a growing concern in a healthcare system struggling to deal with rising costs, an aging population and staffing shortages. In its original announcement, the CMS said that it would focus on strengthening oversight, boosting enforcement, fostering transparency, developing better quality measures and streamlining reporting requirements.

The new icon is an effort to increase transparency, a consistent theme from the CMS under Seema Verma's leadership. The agency now requires hospitals to post their list prices for consumers and it wants to force them to post their payer-negotiated rates beginning in January 2020. HHS and Congress are also thinking about how to force drug companies to inform consumers about the real costs of drugs. These transparency measures aim to create more competitive markets in healthcare.