“Federal regulators say they are moving to make once-confidential data about the performance of kidney dialysis clinics more readily available to the public,” reports Robin Fields of ProPublica, the nonprofit, investigative news group that posted the data online in December. (ProPublica map locates Kentucky dialysis facilities with dark blue dots; gray areas are lakes and national forests)
Last year, a ProPublica investigation showed inferior care and little oversight in some facilities. Officials with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services told Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, they are now making public their statistical compilations on the country’s 5,000 dialysis clinics. This has never been done before, though CMS “has used public money to collect and analyze the data in the reports for more than a decade,” Fields reports. CMS is planning on posting the reports on Medicare’s Dialysis Facility Compare website. ProPublica has already posted those reports, which can be viewed by clicking here.
ProPublica’s investigation reviewed eight years of inspection records for more than 1,500 clinics and “turned up hundreds of lapses in care, some of which led to patient injuries and death,” Fields reports. It also found hundreds of clinics had not been inspected for five years or more, though they are supposed to be checked every three years. Upon learning of the investigation, Grassley asked CMS about what it was doing to improve things.
CMS officials conceded that inspections were inadequate in more than a third of the states. Tougher standards had reportedly been implemented to make the inspections more comprehensive; they are apparently needed. In the past two fiscal years, 15 percent of facilities inspected had “deficiencies serious enough to warrant termination from the Medicare program if left uncorrected,” Fields said. (Read more)