GAO: States' underreporting of nursing home deficiencies improving slightly

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Make auditors also pay for their mistakes, doc group insists
Make auditors also pay for their mistakes, doc group insists

A new governmental report released Wednesday shows that federal nursing home surveyors continue to identify more deficiencies in care than state surveyors, but the discrepancy is shrinking.

Federal comparative surveys can find two types of understatement, according to the report from the Government Accountability Office. This first is missed deficiencies, which can occur when a state surveyor fails to cite a deficiency altogether. The second type is cases where state surveyors cite deficiencies at too low a level, according to the report.

Discrepancies between federal and state surveys decreased from nearly 15% in fiscal year 2007 to slightly more than 12% in fiscal year 2008. States' overall understatement, including deficiencies cited at too low a level, fell to 14.1% in fiscal year 2008, down from 16.5% in fiscal year 2007. Because of large variances in the year-to-year numbers—the percentage of missed deficiencies was 17.5% in 2003 and 11.1% in 2004, for example—it is unclear whether this downward trend will continue, according to the report.

“While state surveyors are doing a commendable job with scarce financial resources, this report shows that Congress and the Administration must do more work to bolster the survey system, both in terms of funding and a more standardized survey process,” said Sen. Herb Kohl (D-WI), chairman of the Senate Special Committee on Aging, who released to report along with ranking member Chuck Grassley (R-IA).