U.S. lawmakers want new nursing home regulations

Triggered by a wave of private investment in nursing homes by players like The Carlyle Group, federal legislators have begun to take a closer look at how such investments affect the care such homes provide. This week, lawmakers conducted hearings looking at ways to demand ownership details from nursing home operators and to make them accountable for patient care problems. The lawmakers are responding to challenges from consumer groups and others, who argue that private equity firms are creating complex, impenetrable ownership structures for homes which shield them from liability when patient care fails. At present, data on nursing home performance is hard to come by, a problem aggravated by the secretive nature of private investors, legislators suggested.

At the hearings, acting CMS administrator Kerry Weems proposed several fixes to address the nursing home transparency and accountability problem. For one thing, CMS is releasing a "special focus facility" list, which names homes considered to be among the worst-performing in the country. CMS is also creating a system which attempts to name any person or company that buys more than 5 percent of a nursing home. Such systems haven't worked in other states, however, as investors have been able to hide their ownership through use of legal but difficult-to-track corporate structures.

To learn more about the hearings:
- read this article in The New York Times

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