How Safe Are Nursing Homes Near Me? This Tool Will Help You Find Out.

6 May

by Charles Ornstein and Lena V. Groeger

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Nursing home residents have been among those hardest hit by the new coronavirus. In some states, more than half of the recorded deaths have been long-term care residents. Some of the homes have been cited for putting residents at “immediate jeopardy” of harm or death, our analysis showed.

And many of the affected homes have been previously written up for violating federal standards. That’s true in California, New Jersey and New York.

We’re updating Nursing Home Inspect to include more information about nursing homes across the country, including past problems with infection control practices, and which ones have had cases of COVID-19 among residents or staff.

We introduced this resource in 2012 as a way to search through tens of thousands of nursing home inspection reports to find problems and trends.

You can easily compare the nursing homes in your state based on how many times they have been cited for violating infection control protocols in the past three inspection cycles (roughly three years). We’ve also added data from The Washington Post on homes with COVID-19 cases. Nursing Home Inspect also allows you to sort by the number of health deficiencies cited by regulators; the number of serious deficiencies per home (that is, deficiencies in which patients were put in immediate jeopardy of harm); the amount of fines imposed; and how often the government has suspended payments to the home for new patients, another type of penalty.

Our data is from the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), which has its own website called Nursing Home Compare. We’ve taken the information and organized it into an easy-to-use resource for families and residents, as well as researchers and other journalists.

Our site includes:

State pages: Every state has its own section that allows you to compare all of the homes in a state on a variety of indicators.

Individual nursing home pages: Every home has a section listing all of the health deficiencies identified within the past three survey cycles (roughly three years). The full text of these deficiency reports, if available, can be accessed via links from this page to CMS. Each home’s page also has ownership status — whether for-profit, government-run or nonprofit — and whether the home has been labeled by the government as a Special Focus Facility, meaning that it has many more problems than other homes. We’ve also labeled Special Focus Facility candidates, which meet the criteria to be a special focus facility but haven’t yet been designated as one. (We only include health deficiencies, not fire and safety violations, in this database.)

State-by-state maps: The main page of the app shows how states compare in terms of the percentage of homes with at least one serious deficiency, the average fine paid by homes in the state, and the percentage of homes in each state with at least one infection-related deficiency.

Top 20 Lists: We’ve listed the homes that have paid the most in fines in the nation and those with the highest number of serious deficiencies.

If homes violate federal standards, CMS may impose fines or suspend Medicare/Medicaid payments to the nursing home for new residents until the facility corrects the deficiency.

If problems persist or are not fixed, CMS can end its agreement with the nursing home. Additional details about CMS’ approach to enforcement can be found here.

Nursing Home Inspect continues to allow you to search through nearly 80,000 inspection reports by keywords, such as “choke” or “maggots,” to look for issues you care about. These search results can be sorted by date, city, state or severity of the deficiency.

Nursing homes are inspected on both a regular schedule and when there is a complaint. Inspectors typically work for state agencies paid by Medicare. If they find problems, known as deficiencies, they rank them on a scale of A to L, the most severe. The vast majority are either labeled D or E.

What you won’t find on these pages are self-reported quality measures for each home. Those can be found on Nursing Home Compare. We also don’t list the state sanctions imposed against homes because those are not centrally collected. For information on penalties within a given state, you should consult the state agency that regulates nursing homes. The federal government has a list of contacts available here.

When reading through inspection reports, it is a good idea to keep in mind the caveats we’ve outlined previously.

How We Combined Data Sources

To compile our app, we used different datasets: a listing of all Medicare-certified nursing homes, inspection violations and penalties, and deficiency report narratives.

We merged spreadsheets containing findings from routine inspections and those identified during complaint visits and kept only health violations, not fire safety violations.

We used each home’s unique identification code to match penalties imposed to the dates of their corresponding inspections so we could display that data together for each home. (We also noted some cases in which a penalty date did not have a corresponding inspection in the database.)

You can find the data we used on these sites:

• For a list of nursing homes: https://data.medicare.gov/Nursing-Home-Compare/Provider-Info/4pq5-n9py

• For penalties: https://data.medicare.gov/Nursing-Home-Compare/Penalties/g6vv-u9sr

• For health deficiency information: https://data.medicare.gov/Nursing-Home-Compare/Health-Deficiencies/r5ix-sfxw

• For deficiency report narratives (updated in April 2020): http://downloads.cms.gov/files/Full-Statement-of-Deficiencies-April-2020.zip


On the Same Day Sen. Richard Burr Dumped Stock, So Did His Brother-in-Law. Then the Market Crashed.

6 May

by Robert Faturechi and Derek Willis

ProPublica is a nonprofit newsroom that investigates abuses of power. Sign up to receive our biggest stories as soon as they’re published.

Sen. Richard Burr was not the only member of his family to sell off a significant portion of his stock holdings in February, ahead of the market crash spurred by coronavirus fears. On the same day Burr sold, his brother-in-law also dumped tens of thousands of dollars worth of shares. The market fell by more than 30% in the subsequent month.

Burr’s brother-in-law, Gerald Fauth, who has a post on the National Mediation Board, sold between $97,000 and $280,000 worth of shares in six companies — including several that have been hit particularly hard in the market swoon and economic downturn.

A person who picked up Fauth’s phone on Wednesday hung up when asked if Fauth and Burr had discussed the sales in advance.

In 2017, President Donald Trump appointed Fauth to the three-person board of the National Mediation Board, a federal agency that facilitates labor-management relations within the nation’s railroad and airline industries. He was previously a lobbyist and president of his own transportation economic consulting firm, G.W. Fauth & Associates.

Burr came under scrutiny after ProPublica reported that he sold off a significant percentage of his stocks shortly before the market tanked, unloading between $628,000 and $1.72 million of his holdings on Feb. 13 in 33 separate transactions. As chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee and a member of the health committee, Burr had access to the government’s most highly classified information about threats to America’s security and public health concerns.

Before his sell-off, Burr had assured the public that the federal government was well-prepared to handle the virus. In a Feb. 7 op-ed that he co-authored with another senator, he said “the United States today is better prepared than ever before to face emerging public health threats, like the coronavirus.”

That month however, according to a recording obtained by NPR, Burr had given a VIP group at an exclusive social club a much more dire preview of the economic impact of the the coronavirus, warning it could curtail business travel, cause schools to be closed and result in the military mobilizing to compensate for overwhelmed hospitals.

The timing of Burr’s stock sales drew widespread outrage, allegations of insider trading, calls for his resignation and an FBI investigation.

Gerald Fauth, Burr’s brother-in-law, was appointed by Trump to the National Mediation Board in 2017.
(National Mediation Board via Wikipedia)

Burr defended his actions, saying he relied solely on public information, including CNBC reports, to inform his trades and did not rely on information he obtained as a senator.

Fauth avoided between $37,000 and $118,000 in losses by selling off when he did, considering how steeply the companies’ shares fell in recent weeks, according to an analysis by Luke Brindle-Khym, a partner and general counsel of Manhattan-based investigative firm QRI. Brindle-Khym obtained Fauth’s financial disclosure from the Office of Government Ethics and shared it with ProPublica. Government forms only require that the value of stock trades be disclosed in ranges. After the February sales, the total value of Fauth’s individual stock holdings appears to be between $680,000 and $2 million.

Burr’s spokespeople did not immediately respond to requests for comment about whether the North Carolina Republican discussed the stock sales with his brother-in-law, or whether he shared any information he learned as a senator with Fauth or any other relatives.

A review of Fauth’s financial disclosure forms since 2017 show that he is not a frequent stock trader, but that he also had a major day of sales in August 2019.

On Feb. 13, Fauth or his spouse sold between $15,001 and $50,000 of Altria, the tobacco company; between $50,001 and $100,000 of snack food maker Mondelez International; and between $1,001 and $15,000 of home furnishings retailer Williams-Sonoma. He also sold stakes in several oil companies, which have been hit particularly hard, including between $15,001 and $50,000 of Chevron; between $1,001 and $15,000 of BP and between $15,001 and $50,000 of Royal Dutch Shell.

The finances of the Burrs and Fauths have intersected before. Federal Election Commission records show that Burr’s leadership PAC, Next Century Fund, has paid $120,348 since 2002 to his sister-in-law, Mary Fauth, Gerald’s wife, who serves as treasurer. The PAC has also paid $104,850 in rent and utilities over the same period to 116 S. Royal St. Partners, in which Gerald Fauth is a partner.

Do you have access to information about stock trading by Trump administration officials or members of Congress that should be public? Email robert.faturechi@propublic.org or reach him on Signal/WhatsApp at 213-271-7217. Here’s how to send tips and documents to ProPublica securely.