February 21,2002

Waxman, Grassley Release Report on Serious Flaws in Key Nursing Home Website

WASHINGTON – A new report released today by Democratic Rep. Henry Waxman and Sen.Chuck Grassley, ranking member of the Committee on Finance, finds serious flaws in the federalwebsite designed to give the public reliable information about nursing homes. The report revealsthat the federal website, called “Nursing Home Compare,” fails to disclose the existence of tens ofthousands of violations of federal health standards.

“The data on the website are incomplete and unreliable,” Waxman said. “The public is notgetting good information when they investigate nursing home quality. Many nursing homes thatappear to have clean records on ‘Nursing Home Compare’ actually had serious problems.”

Grassley said, “Anyone who’s tried to find a nursing home for a family member knows howhard it is to get useful information about the quality of care in a particular nursing home. The federalwebsite is one of the few tools available to nursing home consumers, and as such, it has to beaccurate, complete, and easy to use. A little information is worse than no information if it builds afalse sense of security about nursing home quality. The government has had this website up foryears. It needs to get it right.”

“Nursing Home Compare,” which is part of the Department of Health and Human Service’sMedicare.gov website, is used by millions of families to identify safe nursing homes. The mostimportant information on the site is a searchable database of nursing home violations that issupposed to allow the public to determine the compliance status of individual nursing homes. HHSsays the site is “filled with reliable health care information . . . [to] help you . . . locate nursing homesfor yourself or a loved one.”

The new report reveals that violations found and substantiated by state inspectors duringinvestigations of nursing home complaints are excluded from “Nursing Home Compare.” BetweenOct. 1, 2000, and Dec. 31, 2001, these complaint investigations resulted in 25,204 documentedviolations of federal health standards, but no information on any of these violations appears on“Nursing Home Compare.” The violations that are excluded from “Nursing Home Compare”include 59 percent of the most serious violations (those involving death or serious injury) and 41percent of the violations of the next most serious violations (those that cause actual harm toresidents).

To provide complete information to the public, Waxman and Grassley announced that theyhave posted the missing information on nursing home violations on a congressional website:www.house.gov/reform/min. “HHS needs to get this information to the public as soon as possible.But for now, anyone can go to my committee website to locate this critical information on nursinghome quality,” Waxman said.

In response to these findings, Waxman and Grassley are sending the report to Thomas Scully, Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and calling on him to immediatelyrevise the “Nursing Home Compare” website to include all nursing home violations.

Please refer to printer-friendly version of this release for two atttachments:

(1) Letter to Thomas Scully, Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services
(2) Report, “HHS Nursing Home Compare Website Has Major Flaws,” Feb. 21, 2002