Sep 2, 2022 - Health

Database for showing nursing home ownership has gaps, report says

Illustration of an elderly man in a wheelchair with a giant quarter for a wheel
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

A federal database intended to disclose nursing home ownership has spotty and incomplete information that can obscure whether a private equity firm controls a facility, a new report from Public Citizen finds.

Why it matters: A surge of private equity investment in the sector has coincided with worse health outcomes, studies show. And the pandemic put a spotlight on the quality of care after more than 200,000 long-term care facility residents and staff succumbed to COVID-19.

Yes, but: The private-equity industry cites other research showing the quality of its firms' care is comparable to other types of nursing homes and didn’t falter during COVID-19.

Flashback: During his first State of the Union speech in March, President Biden said he wanted to increase transparency around nursing homes, including the effects of private equity ownership.

  • "As Wall Street firms take over more nursing homes, quality in those homes has gone down and costs have gone up. That ends on my watch," Biden said.

What they found: Only seven of the 13 private equity firms Public Citizen identified as owning nursing homes are listed in the federal database.

  • One firm, Portopiccolo, which was recently profiled in the New Yorker for alleged questionable care practices, is nowhere to be found in the database, despite owning 136 nursing homes, according to Public Citizen.
  • It's important to know who owns these nursing homes in order to hold companies accountable, said Taylor Lincoln, research director for Public Citizen and lead report author.
  • "Nursing homes that I looked at owned by private equity firms aren't disclosing their owners in a comprehensive manner. The data is no good."

What's next: The Government Accountability Office expects to have two reports coming out soon looking further into the matter.

  • Democratic members of the House Ways and Means Committee, who requested the reports, could pick up the issue next Congress. The Biden administration could also take further steps to enforce transparency via new regulations, said Lincoln.
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