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Feds release nursing home death data but it contains errors

Several reasons could explain discrepancies
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Posted at 11:13 AM, Jun 05, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-05 15:24:20-04

INDIANAPOLIS — New federal data released on nursing home deaths and COVID-19 cases is causing confusion and concern.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) released the information Thursday in an effort to increase transparency as more than 31,782 nursing home residents have died from COVID-19 across the country.

Call 6 Investigates did a quick check of the numbers and discovered several discrepancies.

For example, Greenwood Meadows, a facility operated by American Senior Communities is listed twice in the database—with 32 deaths as May 24 and 64 deaths on May 31.

Meanwhile, Greenwood Meadows website shows 32 residents have died.

ASC spokesperson Sherri Davies said the lower number was accurate.

“We are working to correct the error,” said Davies.

Greenwood Healthcare Center, operated by CommuniCare, has had at least 35 deaths according to the county health department.

However, the CMS database shows Greenwood Healthcare with only 1 resident death from COVID-19.

Fred Stratmann, a spokesperson for CommuniCare said he found inaccurate data for other centers as well.

In a call with reporters, CMS officials said differences in numbers could be attributed to the fact that CMS counts nursing home residents who died in a hospital, whereas, other agencies and facilities may not count that as a nursing home death.

Another reason for discrepancies is that the CMS requirement for nursing homes to report COVID-19 death and cases did not take effect until May 8, long after many people died in Indiana nursing homes.

Facilities have the option to report information dating back to January 1, 2020, but it’s not required they include all COVID-19 deaths.

Indiana reports 945 deaths in long-term care facilities.

CMS data released Monday shows 1,142 deaths in nursing homes.

CMS data released Thursday shows 867 deaths in Indiana nursing homes.

Indiana FSSA is also looking into why new federal data released Monday by the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) does not match Indiana’s data on nursing home deaths.

FSSA’s Dr. Dan Rusyniak said he does not believe 200 deaths are unaccounted for.

“It’s much more likely a problem of not attributing it to a nursing home but rather another location,” Rusyniak said.

He said facilities in Indiana have been required since April 10 to report any cases or deaths to the Indiana State Department of Health.

“CMS has acknowledged that their data is unlikely to align perfectly with state’s data,” he said. “We’re going to look into the differences in our two systems and transition away from our online reporting form to using the same data as CMS to better align with theirs.”

Call 6 Investigates contacted CMS about the discrepancies in the data.

The federal agency provided the following statement to RTV6, in which they acknowledged errors.

“CMS recently implemented an unprecedented requirement that Medicare-certified nursing homes report to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) COVID-19 cases and deaths, as well as other information related to staffing and supplies through the National Healthcare Safety Network (NHSN) system. As with any new reporting program, there can be data submission errors in the beginning. In an effort to be transparent, CMS made the data collected by the CDC public as quickly as possible balancing transparency and speed against the potential of initial data errors. CMS is advising nursing homes when their submitted data has not passed certain quality checks so they can review the CDC submission instructions and their data submission for accuracy. As CMS continues to analyze the data going forward we expect fewer errors as nursing home staff get used to these requirements and CMS has more time to quality check the data.”

You can see the full list of nursing home COVID-19 data compiled by the RTV6 team in the document below. This list will be continuously updated as new numbers are provided.

For a quick overview of the nursing home COVID-19 data visit HERE.

To view the Nursing Home COVID-19 data, visit HERE.

To view the state survey memo on COVID-19 nursing home data, visit HERE.