Tuesday January 19th, 2021 1:38PM

Medicare nursing home COVID site leaves users 'in the dark'

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

WASHINGTON (AP) — When the Trump administration required nursing homes to report their COVID-19 cases, it also promised to make the data available to residents, families and the public in a user-friendly way.

But some facilities that have had coronavirus cases and deaths turn up as having none on Medicare's COVID-19 nursing home website. Those data may be incomplete because the reporting requirements don't reach back to the start of the pandemic. Numbers don't necessarily portray the full picture.

“The biggest thing that needs to be taken away ... is in its current form, it is really leaving consumers in the dark,” Sam Brooks, project manager for Consumer Voice, said of Medicare's data website. Consumer Voice is a national advocacy group for improved quality in long-term care.

Nursing homes are only required to provide the government with data on coronavirus cases and deaths among residents and staff as of May 8, or more than two months after the first outbreak in a U.S. facility was reported. Nursing homes have the option of full disclosure, but not all have taken it, and there is no penalty for withholding older data that may reflect poorly.

The missing information from early in the pandemic leads to some puzzling results on the website.

For example, a nursing home that had one of the first major reported outbreaks in the country — Life Care Center of Kirkland, Washington — shows no confirmed COVID cases and no deaths on the CMS data page.

A spokesman for Life Care Centers of America, a major chain, said the company is providing the information the government requested.

“We are reporting what CMS is asking us to report to them,” said Tim Killian. “We are not evading them in any way.

“The Kirkland facility is now COVID-free and it has been for some time,” Killian added. The data showing no cases “is a snapshot of what is currently in the facility.”

The company said its cumulative count shows 100 residents tested positive, and 34 died. “You can ask us directly and we’ll give you the exact numbers,” said Killian.

But consumer advocate Brooks said that information should be on the CMS site.

As it stands, the site “doesn’t tell the whole picture,” he said. “You are not going to be able to look at a home and make an informed decision."

The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which sets standards for nursing homes, said protecting nursing home residents is a top priority, and “transparency and information sharing has proven to be one of the keys to the battle against this pandemic.”

But CMS said it lacked the legal authority to require nursing homes to disclose COVID information from before the effective date of its reporting rule in May.

On Capitol Hill, there is pressure for more information.

Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, recently introduced legislation that would require nursing homes to report coronavirus cases and deaths going back to Jan. 1, a push that has bipartisan support.

The estimated 1.4 million people living in some 15,500 nursing homes represent a tiny share of the U.S. population, but they have borne a disproportionate share of coronavirus deaths. Nursing homes are only now starting to emerge from a national lockdown that took effect in mid-March.

According to the latest CMS figures, more than 33,000 nursing home residents have died in the pandemic. A running tally by The Associated Press, which also includes other long-term care facilities and staff as well as residents, shows more than 55,000 deaths.

Depending on the total count, that translates from about one-fourth of the deaths to more than 40%, strikingly high proportions in either case.

Coronavirus data for nursing homes do not appear directly on Medicare's NursingHomeCompare website, the main portal for consumers trying to research a facility on behalf of a family member or friend. Instead, a link takes users to a different COVID-19 site that features statistics and a national nursing home locator map.

Finding information on individual nursing homes via the data website can be confusing.

If users type in a ZIP code or the name of a nursing home, the website’s locator map will display some small red dots near a larger marker icon, which also has a big dot in the middle.

Instructions say click on one of the dots. But which one?

The data is under the small red dots, not the larger locator, which instinctively draws the user’s eye.

“I would click on the big dot,” said policy attorney Toby Edelman of the Center for Medicare Advocacy, which represents enrollees. “Why would I look for this thing that I can barely see?”

CMS said it has received no reports related to search problems although more than 100,000 individuals accessed the site in June.

The agency says it will continue to evaluate the usability of the website to ensure it meets consumer needs.

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP Online Headlines - Washington, AP Health, AP Business, AP Business - Consumer News, AP Health - Senior Health, AP Business - Industries, AP Business - Health Care, AP Business - Personal Finance
© Copyright 2021
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Trump donors among early recipients of coronavirus loans
As much as $273 million in federal coronavirus aid was awarded to more than 100 companies that are owned or operated by major donors to President Donald Trump’s election efforts
12:11AM ( 13 minutes ago )
NHL, players announce labor deal, plan to resume play Aug. 1
The National Hockey League and NHL Players’ Association have reached a tentative agreement to return to play this season and extend their collective bargaining agreement by four years
12:10AM ( 14 minutes ago )
Medicare nursing home COVID site leaves users 'in the dark'
The Trump administration is requiring nursing homes to report their COVID-19 cases and deaths
12:08AM ( 16 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
Sports jumps on PPP bandwagon, but big leagues take a pass
Hundreds of sports-related businesses got in line for the government-funded Payroll Protection Plan designed to cushion the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic
10:16PM ( 2 hours ago )
White woman charged after racist Central Park confrontation
A white woman walking her dog who called the police during a videotaped dispute with a Black man in Central Park was charged Monday with filing a false report
10:00PM ( 2 hours ago )
Governors' companies among recipients of virus relief loans
Data released Monday show governors who led state responses to the coronavirus pandemic were among beneficiaries of the loan program created to help small businesses weather COVID-19′s economic effects
9:32PM ( 2 hours ago )
AP Online Headlines - Washington
Hospitals approaching capacity as Miami closes restaurants
Hospitals are fast approaching capacity a number of states, and the Miami area again ordered restaurants closed to indoor dining as the number of confirmed coronavirus cases and hospitalizations began to climb
11:26PM ( 58 minutes ago )
The Latest: Air New Zealand puts hold on new flight bookings
New Zealand’s national carrier has put a temporary hold on new bookings for flights into the country while the government tries to find enough quarantined hotel rooms for people returning home
11:01PM ( 1 hour ago )
The Latest: Young people most of Arizona's confirmed cases
Arizona state health officials say the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Arizona has now surpassed 100,000 and younger people, not the elderly, have comprised more than half of them
10:20PM ( 2 hours ago )
AP Health
Asia Today: China's university exam begins after virus delay
Almost 11 million students began taking China’s university entrance exam after a delay as the country worked to bring down coronavirus infections
11:09PM ( 1 hour ago )
Samsung projects 23% jump in 2Q profit on strong chip sales
Samsung Electronics Co. has reported that its operating profit for the last quarter likely rose 23% from the same period last year, helped by strong demand as people bought new equipment to be able to work from home during the pandemic
10:41PM ( 1 hour ago )
NHL, players' union announce plan to resume play on Aug. 1
The National Hockey League and NHL Players’ Association have reached a tentative agreement to return to play this season and extend their collective bargaining agreement by four years
9:02PM ( 3 hours ago )
AP Business
Patriots owner's prostitution case heads to appellate court
Prosecutors charging New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft with buying sex from massage parlor prostitutes are trying to save their case
8:54AM ( 1 week ago )
Bar owners worry as virus surges in their workplaces
A Houston bar owner who believed he could no longer provide a safe environment for his staff, customers and himself felt he had no choice but to shut down his business
12:17PM ( 1 week ago )
US shoppers returned with vigor in May in partial rebound
American shoppers ramped up their spending on store purchases by a record 17.7% from April to May, delivering a dose of energy for retailers that have been reeling since the coronavirus shut down businesses, flattened the economy and paralyzed consumers during the previous two months
1:46PM ( 2 weeks ago )
AP Business - Consumer News
The Latest: Australia’s most populous state to close border
The leader of Australia’s most populous state says her government’s decision to close its border with hard-hit Victoria state marks a new phase in the country’s coronavirus pandemic
11:15PM ( 1 day ago )
The Latest: Californians mostly avoid beaches over weekend
Californians mostly heeded warnings to stay away from beaches and other public spaces during the long weekend
7:34PM ( 1 day ago )
The Latest: Phoenix mayor points to crisis in virus testing
Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego is pointing to a “crisis” involving coronavirus testing shortages in her city due to surging cases in Arizona, which leads the U.S. in new coronavirus cases per capita
7:27PM ( 1 day ago )
AP Health - Senior Health
Markets swell around the world; Nasdaq sets another record
Stocks have rallied worldwide as investors bet that the economy can continue its dramatic turnaround despite all the challenges ahead
6:28PM ( 5 hours ago )
The Latest: Financial firms among big relief fund recipients
Government data shows that the financial services industry received roughly $27 billion from the Paycheck Protection Program, the coronavirus-relief fund aimed at helping small businesses
5:58PM ( 6 hours ago )
Judge orders Dakota Access pipeline shut down pending review
A judge has ordered the Dakota Access pipeline shut down for additional environmental review more than three years after it began pumping oil
5:58PM ( 6 hours ago )
AP Business - Industries
Serbia opens field hospital; S Africa mulls tougher lockdown
Serbian troops have set up an emergency 500-bed field hospital as the Balkan nation battles a surge in coronavirus infections that underscored the risks of swiftly easing lockdowns
10:54AM ( 13 hours ago )
Serbian military opens field hospital amid coronavirus spike
Troops in Serbia have set up an emergency 500-bed field hospital, a day after neighboring Kosovo re-imposed a nighttime curfew in four cities
9:29AM ( 14 hours ago )
French drug company accused of favoring profits over lives
French pharmaceutical company Servier Laboratories is facing millions of euros in potential fines after a massive trial around a diabetes drug used as a diet pill
6:55AM ( 17 hours ago )
AP Business - Health Care
No more delays: What to know about the July 15 tax deadline
Tax procrastinators, your time is running out
2:02PM ( 10 hours ago )
No more delays: What to know about the July 15 deadline
Tax procrastinators, your time is running out
8:59AM ( 15 hours ago )
21 Savage launches free online financial program for youth
Rapper 21 Savage says he will launch a free online financial literacy education program for youth sheltered at home during the coronavirus pandemic
6:53PM ( 4 days ago )
AP Business - Personal Finance
Trump donors among early recipients of coronavirus loans
As much as $273 million in federal coronavirus aid was awarded to more than 100 companies that are owned or operated by major donors to President Donald Trump’s election efforts
12:11AM ( 13 minutes ago )
NHL, players announce labor deal, plan to resume play Aug. 1
The National Hockey League and NHL Players’ Association have reached a tentative agreement to return to play this season and extend their collective bargaining agreement by four years
12:10AM ( 14 minutes ago )
GOP worries Trump's divisive June imperils Senate control
President Donald Trump began June with his Bible-clutching photo op outside a church after authorities used chemicals and batons to scatter peaceful demonstrators, and the month never got less jarring or divisive
12:06AM ( 18 minutes ago )
Virus loans helped entities tied to Trump evangelical allies
Churches connected to President Donald Trump and other organizations linked to current or former Trump evangelical advisers received at least $17.3 million in loans from a federal rescue package designed to aid small businesses during the coronavirus pandemic
12:03AM ( 21 minutes ago )
Australia's 2nd largest city foils nation's pandemic success
Australia has been among the world’s most successful countries in containing its coronavirus outbreak, with one exception
12:00AM ( 24 minutes ago )