1,400 Nursing Homes Get Lower Medicare Ratings Because Of Staffing Concerns

Source: Jordan Rau and Elizabeth Lucas, Kaiser Health News, July 30, 2018

Medicare has lowered its star ratings for staffing levels in 1 in 11 of the nation’s nursing homes — almost 1,400 of them — because they either had inadequate numbers of registered nurses or failed to provide payroll data that proved they had the required nursing coverage, federal records released last week show.

Medicare only recently began collecting and publishing payroll data on the staffing of nursing homes as required by the Affordable Care Act of 2010, rather than relying as it had before on the nursing homes’ own unverified reports.

The payroll records revealed lower overall staffing levels than homes had disclosed, particularly among registered nurses. Those are the highest-trained caregivers required to be in a nursing home, and they supervise other nurses and aides. Medicare mandates that every facility have a registered nurse working at least eight hours every day…..

….The new payroll data, analyzed by Kaiser Health News, showed that for-profit nursing homes averaged 16 percent fewer staff than did nonprofits, even after accounting for differences in the needs of residents. The biggest difference was in the number of registered nurses: At the average nonprofit, there was one RN for every 28 residents, but at the average for-profit, there was only one RN for every 43 residents. Researchers have repeatedly found lower staffing in for-profit facilities, which make up 70 percent of the industry….

Related:
Mining A New Data Set To Pinpoint Critical Staffing Issues In Skilled Nursing Facilities
Source: Jordan Rau, Kaiser Health News, July 30, 2018

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services is not known for linguistic playfulness. Nonetheless, at least one person there must have been chuckling when it named its rich new data source for nursing home staffing levels the Payroll-Based Journal, or PBJ.

Like that classic sandwich, the PBJ data set is irresistible. CMS created it to fulfill a requirement of the Affordable Care Act to improve the accuracy of its five-star staffing ratings on Medicare’s Nursing Home Compare website. The data set contains payroll records that nursing homes are required to submit to the government.

In April, Medicare began using them to rate staffing for more than 14,000 skilled nursing facilities (SNFs). The PBJ data gives a much better look at the how staffing relates to quality of care than the less precise — and too easy to inflate — staffing data Medicare had been using since 2008, which were based on two-week snapshots of staffing homes provided to inspectors. The data show staffing and occupancy on every day — an unprecedented degree of granularity that allows for new levels of inquiry.