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Federal agency changes nursing home reviews

The Baltimore Sun

WASHINGTON -- The federal agency that evaluates nursing homes will consider more information in its ranking system -- including the use of anti-psychotic medication -- after news reports and lawmakers last year raised questions about the system's integrity.

A New York Times article last year found the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services does not verify much of the information submitted by the nursing home industry when it compiles and publicly distributes grades of the facilities.

The story prompted a letter in August from Baltimore Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, the top-ranking Democrat on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, questioning the agency's reviews.

CMS said this week it will now consider additional information in its rankings, including the use of anti-psychotic medication at facilities as well as expanded inspections. The agency said it would adjust its internal formulas to more accurately reflect staffing levels at nursing homes.

"Families placing their loved ones in another's care deserve information that will help them make the best choice possible, and I hope the improved methodology CMS has put into place will provide that," Cummings said in a statement.

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