Don’t get duped into entering Arizona’s nursing homes. Step one, check their admission list.

It’s no secret that nursing homes struggle to keep patients safe — inspection records show they are failing to meet federal staffing rules and that patients are dying in horrific conditions, far too often….

Don’t get duped into entering Arizona’s nursing homes. Step one, check their admission list.

It’s no secret that nursing homes struggle to keep patients safe — inspection records show they are failing to meet federal staffing rules and that patients are dying in horrific conditions, far too often. But until recently, most of these issues weren’t well-known to the public — in part because for decades, nursing homes claimed patients’ homes at night.

What’s new is a detailed set of nursing home care trends published over the past year by the Arizona state health department. And its findings should serve as a wake-up call to lawmakers, who pledged to hold nursing homes accountable, get inspection reports to the public and expand government oversight of the industry. The July 2018 study found that most nursing homes admitted 3,000 patients who were medically dependent on machinery, unable to communicate and referred to by name — yet were not qualified to be admitted. There’s no evidence that most were “medically appropriate” to live in a nursing home.

While the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System — Arizona’s Medicaid provider — spends only about $0.70 on each patient day, it also insures 13 million working-age people and requires many to move from nursing homes into long-term care institutions like hospitals and assisted living facilities. Arizona’s 88 facilities were required to supply their public database with any instance in which at least one patient was admitted who posed a medical risk or required long-term care. No other state requires as much information on its nursing homes.

In October 2018, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar told The Washington Post that, in the future, he wants to require nursing homes to post inspection reports online “as they are now [and] get more involved in managing the delivery of care.”

The overall trend of nursing homes admitting patients who are medically impaired and other vulnerable patients caught our attention at WPS Health Issues. Twenty-five percent of Arizona’s nursing homes applied for certification as long-term care institutions. This would increase their reimbursements from $93,770 to $174,352 for each of the 288 beds it would provide. This would give many nursing homes a competitive advantage in Arizona’s nursing care marketplace, which benefits all residents.

When we discovered that the vast majority of nursing homes did not post their public list of admissions online, we contacted and worked with the Arizona Health Care Quality Center to alert The Washington Post and to develop new hospital-like registration requirements at nursing homes. Last month, Attorney General Mark Brnovich signed an agreement with the Arizona Health Care Quality Center, which requires nursing homes to post most patient admissions and information about employees’ criminal backgrounds. At the request of Human Rights Watch, the state will also seek an assessment of the number of facilities admitting medically ill patients and ensuring that the facilities follow the required state screening process. Arizona’s new requirements will be helpful and require much closer scrutiny than they have been in the past.

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