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A Center for Public Integrity (CPI) analysis of nursing home data from more than 10,000 nursing homes across the U.S. came to a familiar conclusion recently: a high degree of inaccuracy of self-reported data.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the federal agency responsible for overseeing nursing homes, has spoken repeatedly since 2001 about the inaccuracy of self-reported data.

Yet, CMS has not transitioned to a rating system that uses a company’s real payroll reports, instead of self-reported data.

Discrepancies in 80% of reported nursing home staff levels

More than 80 percent of nursing homes are reporting higher levels of registered nurse care to CMS’s Nursing Home Compare website for consumers, than are reflected on their reports to Medicare.

These discrepancies in reporting can lead family members to believe that their loved ones are receiving a specified amount of skilled care. In reality, they may be receiving much less, particularly by registered nurses, some of the most skilled and highest paid nursing home workers.

Nursing homes with residents of all racial groups generally had lower registered nurse staffing levels: especially those where the majority of residents were either African-American or Latino. While hundreds of nursing homes across the country with a majority of African-American residents were self-reporting slightly more than 30 minutes of registered nurse care per day, the nurses’ payroll records show only about 20 minutes daily.

The Affordable Care Act mandated that CMS implement an electronic data collection system by which facilities would submit payroll-based, verifiable staffing information about registered nurses, licensed practical nurses and certified nursing assistants.

This transition was due to occur by March 2012, but was unfunded until October 2014.

The new goal for completion is December, 2016.

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