Searching for a nursing home? Biden administration takes 'unprecedented step' to release ownership data

Federal data released Monday shows ownership of about 15,000 nursing homes nationwide, information that will allow state regulators, researchers and the public to better track common owners.

Officials said the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services data is part of the Biden administration's effort to shine a light on an industry that receives substantial federal funding. The new ownership information follows a data release in April on more than 3,000 nursing homes that changed ownership through mergers or purchases since 2016.

Nursing homes were among the deadliest places during COVID-19's winter 2020 surge, revealing long-standing patient safety and staffing shortcomings. USA TODAY reported in March that one of the nation's largest chain of 113 facilities collectively reported some of the worst death rates in the nation­ to the federal government.

Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra said the ownership data is part of the agency's "unprecedented steps" to meet Biden's goal of improving quality of care in the nation's nursing homes. Becerra was set to discuss more details Monday  at Biden's competition council meeting of Cabinet secretaries and agency leaders.

“Every family deserves the peace of mind of knowing their loved ones living in nursing homes are receiving the best possible care," Becerra said. "We are continuing to make more data publicly available than ever before to improve transparency for researchers, regulators and loved ones.”

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Why is this data important?

Nursing-home ownership data has largely been unavailable to the public, including information on for-profit chains that have increased their stakes in the industry. Biden administration officials want to monitor whether investors are consolidating ownership in regions, which could reduce competition and make care more expensive.

CMS officials said the data will allow state licensing officials, law enforcement, researchers and the public to discover common owners of nursing homes. State licensing agencies, for example, will be able to track nursing-home owners who might have a history of poor performance on quality of care, officials said.

Nursing homes owned by major chains in 2020-21
Nursing homes owned by major chains in 2020-21

What does the data show?

The data files posted at data.cms.gov includes ownership information of about 15,000 nursing homes certified by Medicare and Medicaid. These homes are subject to annual inspections, called surveys.

However, consumers have been unable to track whether homes are owned by a group or a management company with a history of poor performance.

The new data includes information about each home's owner as well as whether it's part of a larger chain or consulting firm. The data will include fields that show groups of nursing homes with common owners and management groups.

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How will this information be used?

CMS officials said the data will be another key point that families might want to consider when considering whether to place a loved one into a home. The ownership data will be added to Medicare's care compare website by the end of this week, officials said.

The website included a five-star rating system and evaluates a nursing home's health inspections, staffing and quality measures. Consumers also can check a home's COVID-19 vaccination rates and penalties assessed for a serious health or fire safety violation.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Nursing homes data released by Biden administration shows ownership