Confusion as public wants more of 'the worst'

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The first-ever release of a so-called "worst" nursing homes list last week by federal health officials has whetted the public's appetite for more.

Regulators with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services on Thursday released the names of 54 providers on a so-called "special focus facilities" list - but they also withheld 74 others on it because they were deemed not as bad as the others. Requests for the other 74 names produced mixed results in Iowa and Florida (SFF facilities are scattered throughout at least 33 states and the District of Columbia).

A CMS spokesman told a Florida newspaper the released list of 54 was reserved for "repeat offenders" and not those either just added or most likely to be dropped from the worst-performers list soon. Nonetheless, the state health department handed out the names of three more facilities not on the original 54 last week.

In Iowa, however, the Des Moines Register reported that the state's Department of Inspections and Appeals declined to release the names of three facilities not already named by CMS last week, apparently because they were only recently added to the list. One CMS official was quoted by the newspaper as saying that, while not mandated, facility staff and residents should be given the opportunity to hear about the ignoble distinction from within before others publicize it.