Senators press for SNF survey changes in light of adverse events report

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The skilled nursing facility survey process is failing to ensure resident safety and needs to be improved, two prominent senators said in a recent letter to the head of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

Nursing home surveys “should be able to identify problems that exist before they compromise patient care,” wrote Sens. Bill Nelson (D-FL) and Charles Grassley (R-IA). A recent government report indicates surveys are not accomplishing this, they stated in an April 2 letter to CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner. That report, from the Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General, found that one in five SNF residents experiences “some harm.”

Nelson and Grassley want to know how skilled nursing facilities receive Medicare/Medicaid certification and pass surveys despite such a high number of adverse events. They requested information about how CMS intends to “improve” surveys and the resources the agency plans to devote to that.

The senators' focus does not align with CMS' response to the adverse events report. The agency intends to focus less on tighter surveys and more on beefing up quality improvement efforts to safeguard residents, CMS officials said after the report was released.

While they “appreciate” the quality improvement work that Tavenner has overseen, the OIG report shows “we must — and should — do more,” Nelson and Grassley wrote.

Nelson is the chairman of the Special Committee on Aging, and Grassley is the ranking member of the Committee on the Judiciary.

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