Private equity firms do not affect nursing home quality of care, Harvard study finds

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Long-term care ombudsman programs can tap Medicaid for the first time, CMS announces
Long-term care ombudsman programs can tap Medicaid for the first time, CMS announces
A year after a news report uncovered resident care and ownership problems at privately held nursing homes, a new report from Harvard Medical School finds the opposite: Quality at nursing homes does not suffer, and, in certain cases, may even improve under private-equity ownership.

After comparing the quality of care at private equity owned nursing homes to privately owned nursing homes, researchers discover little to no evidence supporting the belief that quality of care declines after corporate takeover. More than 1,500 nursing homes were looked at for the report. Last September, a New York Times piece revealed that private equity firms overlooked care for the sake of profits, and that complicated corporate structures made it hard for families of residents to sue facilities over poor care.

Researchers looked at a number of care indicators, including staffing levels, survey deficiencies and patient outcomes, including weight loss, bed sore occurrences and ability to perform activities of daily living. Among the findings: While RN staffing declined, other factors, such as aide staffing, catheter use, UTIs, weight loss, and pressure ulcers, actually improved. The report was published in the September/October issue of the journal Health Affairs.

Still, Harvard Medical School assistant professor David Stevenson and associate professor David Grabowski note that this is a preliminary report. They also argue that it is important to look at ownership transparency and accountability that extend beyond private equity investment. The report comes as many for-profit owners convene in Chicago for the annual meeting by the National Investment Center for the Seniors Housing & Care Industry.