Inspector General Warns Nursing Home Residents Are at Risk of Abuse

September 1, 2017
August 2017

On August 24, 2017, Daniel Levinson, the Inspector General for the HHS Office of Inspector General (OIG), called on the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to take immediate action to protect nursing home residents from abuse following a remarkable investigation that found CMS is not enforcing abuse reporting requirements in the Affordable Care Act that took effect in 2011.  The investigation, like many before it, shows that nursing homes and public officials are often apathetic when residents suffer sexual assaults and other serious crimes. 

The ongoing OIG investigation identified 134 Medicare beneficiaries who appear to have been victims of rape and other mostly sexual crimes. Eight of them lived in California nursing homes.  OIG used emergency room records to identify victims and evaluate the response. More than one-quarter of the cases were not reported to law enforcement as required.  State survey agencies that are responsible for investigating nursing home abuse have substantiated only 7 of the 134 incidents. 

Curtis Roy, an assistant regional inspector general for OIG, in an interview with NPR, described the cases his office examined as “the worst of the worst” and stated: “There’s never an excuse to allow somebody to suffer this kind of torment, really, ever.” 

The clear message of OIG’s alert is to warn the public that nursing home residents are in harm’s way because systems designed to protect them are broken. An accompanying video prepared by OIG urges people with loved ones in nursing homes to be on the alert and report suspected abuse immediately. OIG acted now, rather than waiting to complete its investigation, due to the urgency of the situation. 

OIG also had a message for CMS. Inspector General Levinson urged CMS to enforce the law and to follow OIG’s lead in using emergency room records involving nursing home residents to identify potential cases of abuse and neglect. 

The OIG alert closely follows CNN’s most recent report in its ongoing investigation of sexual abuse in U.S. nursing homes.

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