At least 11 nursing homes in the Philadelphia region were being considered for inclusion on a federal list of the nation’s most troubled such facilities, according to information released Monday by Pennsylvania’s two U.S. senators, Bob Casey and Pat Toomey.
The nursing homes on the so-called Special Focus Facility program by Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services are typically subject to heightened scrutiny by regulators to ensure they are safe for residents.
While CMS publishes a monthly list of the nursing homes — up to 88 of the 15,700 nursing homes nationwide — selected for the Special Focus Facility program, it normally does not disclose the nursing homes that were being considered to be included on the list.
Nursing homes become candidates for the special focus list when they accumulate an unspecified number of points from citations issued by state health department inspectors. Inspectors cite nursing homes for the highest-severity violations when residents are seriously injured or even die because of neglect.
Casey and Toomey asked CMS to provide its April list of about 400 nursing homes nationwide that were candidates for the special focus program to the public. After CMS failed to do that, the senators decided to release it themselves this week.
“To date, CMS has arbitrarily excluded from public disclosure a subset of these underperforming nursing homes,” Toomey said in a news release. "Moving forward, I hope CMS will give the public this particular list, as well as all relevant information about nursing home quality.”
Among the area nursing homes, Conner-Williams Nursing Home, in Ridley Park, has since been moved to the special focus list. Cooper River West, renamed Riverfront Rehabilitation & Healthcare, in Pennsauken, and Pembrooke Health & Rehabilitation Center, in West Chester, recently graduated from the program. To leave the list, nursing homes must get through two state inspections at least six months apart with no serious problems. If they don’t improve, CMS can cut them off from Medicare and Medicaid payments.
CMS administrator Seema Verma said in a May 3 letter to Casey that the number of nursing homes on the special focus list and on the candidate list is determined by the amount of money available.
In 2010, the agency had 167 slots on the special focus list and as many as 835 candidates for the list. Those numbers were reduced to 88 and 440 in 2014 as part of federal budget negotiations, she said.
Verma said CMS was evaluating whether it had regulatory authority to publish the list of candidates for special focus.