Nursing home inspector holding a clipboard
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A key U.S. lawmaker is calling on the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to address reported lags in surveys of nursing homes in the Special Focus Facility program after finding that 1 in 5 are overdue for inspections. 

“A review of standard surveys conducted at nursing homes in the SFF program appears to show that many of these facilities are not being surveyed as frequently as required by law,” Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA), chairman of the Special Committee on Aging, wrote in a letter to CMS Monday.

“Conducting regular standard surveys of SFF participants is an important means of ensuring safety, accountability and compliance with federal law,” he added. 

There are 87 nursing homes currently in the SFF program — with more than 400 on the candidate list. Nursing homes in the program must undergo standard surveys every six months, compared to the typical 15-month cycle for nursing homes outside the program. 

Casey said Aging Committee staff conducted its own review of the program and found that 15 nursing homes had gone six months or longer without a standards survey as of late February. He noted the delays took place after CMS allowed states to restart standard surveys in August 2020, following restrictions put in place early in the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“Nursing homes that go long periods between standard surveys can accumulate deficiencies in the absence of regular oversight,” Casey wrote. He added that the findings have him concerned about the timeliness, consistency and effectiveness of SFF program oversight and the wellbeing of residents in those facilities. 

Casey specifically called on CMS to answer how it plans to bolster the SFF program as part of the White House’s nursing home reform initiative, what measures are in place to ensure timely surveys continue and how staffing shortages at survey agencies contribute to the delays. 

He gave CMS a deadline of June 6 to respond to his request.