Nursing homes’ top regulatory body announced Wednesday that it will soon begin posting the identities of all candidates for the Special Focus Facility initiative on a consumer-facing website.
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services would add the names of hundreds of underperforming nursing homes to an already public list of 88 participants receiving additional oversight.
The declaration came during a media briefing with CMS Chief Medical Officer Kate Goodrich, M.D., and fanned a controversy that erupted Monday when Pennsylvania’s U.S. Senators revealed the larger, so-called “secret” list of chronically poor-performing facilities.
Goodrich said Wednesday that there are no current plans to include more participants in the program but added that $44 million requested in President Trump’s budget for surveying and accreditation costs “could help alleviate the issue.”
The issue has left many facilities, the broader provider community — and CMS — struggling to protect their reputations.
The agency places a maximum of 88 chronically “poor performing” skilled nursing facilities into its SFF program at any one time.
But Pennsylvania Sens. Bob Casey (D) and Pat Toomey (R) published CMS’ monthly list of candidates, which included more than 400 buildings, for the first time this week as part of a broader report on nursing home quality. SFF candidates also have a series of problematic inspections, but they have not been selected by state officials for inclusion because of limited resources.
Casey lauded the CMS decision to make both lists publically available on an ongoing basis.
“Now we must work in a bipartisan fashion to ensure the SFF program is working properly and that CMS has the funding it needs to improve underperforming nursing homes nationwide,” he said Wednesday.
Katie Smith Sloan, president and CEO of LeadingAge, said in a statement that her organization supports efforts to increase ease of access to information regarding long-term care providers.
“The best way to promote improvement is to increase attention on and enforcement of care standards on the nursing homes that need it most – those that do not meet care standards under OBRA,” Sloan said, referring to federal nursing home law.
The acknowledgment of the extensive SFF candidate list brought heightened attention to surveying practices this week, with mainstream media across the country digging through the names and reporting survey results and citations.
That’s created palpable concern for industry leaders and providers on the once-discreet candidate list. Alongside low star ratings, SFF designations can negatively affect census, pinch revenues and make investments in quality harder to justify.
CMS’s Goodrich said the new attention on SFF has “amplified the important national dialogue” about quality. She cited changes to surveying, staffing requirements and reporting standards as evidence of ongoing CMS efforts to spur improvement among providers.
There is no timeline for when monthly SFF candidate lists will be reported publicly. Goodrich said the agency first must determine a way to do so that is “understandable.”