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CSM update to Nursing Home Compare website creates ambiguity

New Mexico residents who are seeking a nursing home for an elderly loved one have probably gone on the Nursing Home Compare website. Back in October 2019, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services made a change to this website that some experts are saying is doing more harm than good.

In particular, the CMS has made it so that a red stop sign icon appears over any reviews of facilities that have received an abuse or neglect citation. Though it sounds helpful in that it warns readers about the quality of a given nursing care facility, it actually creates confusion and can make facilities look worse than they are.

The president of the American Health Care Association gives several examples to clarify. Food may go missing in a facility, in which case it becomes "misappropriation of property" and must be reported to the state, which could mean an abuse citation. An abuse citation could even arise from a simple incident where two wheelchair-bound nursing home residents bump into each other on accident.

The AHCA president recommends creating another icon, such as a yellow triangle with an exclamation mark, that could warn customers to look more closely rather than scaring them off. He also recommends including information on customer satisfaction in the website. These can help increase transparency.

Though websites like Nursing Home Compare should play a role in reducing cases of physical, financial or psychological abuse at nursing homes, this is not always the case. Fortunately, there are laws that allow the victims of such abuse or their families to file a claim against the facility and, if successful, be reimbursed for legitimate losses like medical bills and pain and suffering. One may even sue for punitive damages in some cases. Having a lawyer on the case may be wise.

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