Lack of Regulation Puts Nursing Home Resident Safety at Stake

According to a June report by the New York Times, several of this country’s most poorly-run nursing homes have mortgages insured against default by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, even though the agency has long ceased conducting inspections that ascertain the quality and safety of these facilities for residents.

Seventy-four taxpayer-backed nursing homes were recently listed alongside over 400 other American nursing facilities classified as repeatedly falling short of health, safety, and quality standards by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). This roster of 478 sub-par nursing homes, compiled by CMS at the request of two U.S. senators and made public by those senators in early June, presents nursing homes deficient enough to be considered for inclusion in a CMS program known as “Special Focus Facilities” (SFF). While SFFs themselves are publicly designated, the longer list of similarly deficient candidates for the program has previously gone unpublished. In the interest of transparency, Pennsylvania senators Pat Toomey and Bob Casey published the SFF candidate list and urged CMS to continue doing so in order that the public can make informed decisions regarding what Sen. Casey called the “difficult and often painful” process of choosing a nursing home for a loved one.

SFFs are subject to repeat inspections and are required to improve conditions under threat of civil monetary penalties and the loss of Medicare and Medicaid eligibility; however, budget restrictions limit the program to just 88 facilities, and meanwhile the candidates for SFF, including those of the 74 HUD-backed nursing homes not designated as SFFs, are not given the same incentive to make improvements. According to the Times, HUD has not conducted facility inspections since 2012.

Although the HUD mortgage insurance program, known as Section 232, is essential for offering financial support to nursing homes in need, the lack of monitoring by the agency of nursing facilities belonging to the program means HUD—and, therefore, taxpayers—are supporting certain facilities that fall into patterns of nursing home neglect and abuse. In an effort to secure the “safety, dignity and well-being of nursing home residents,” the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, Rep. Richard Neal of Massachusetts, urged HUD in June to boost oversight of its Section 232 participants by resuming Real Estate Assessment Center (REAC) property inspections.

Avoiding SFFs and Other Seriously Deficient Nursing Homes 

Finding the right nursing home for your loved one can be a challenge, and knowing how best to choose a nursing home will help you make the best decision possible. If you need help with how to choose a Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, or New Jersey nursing home or if you suspect abuse or neglect has taken place by a Philadelphia/PA or NJ nursing home where your loved one resides, contact nursing home abuse attorney Brian P. Murphy to discover your legal rights and options.