The Older Americans Act:

Access to and Utilization of the Ombudsman Program

PEMD-92-21: Published: May 6, 1992. Publicly Released: May 6, 1992.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information about the Administration on Aging's (AOA) state-administered long-term care ombudsman program, focusing on: (1) program objectives; (2) program impact and measurement of that impact; (3) program utilization by nursing home and board and care facility residents; and (4) difficulties ombudsmen experience in gaining access to nursing home and board and care facility residents.

GAO found that: (1) the ombudsman program's objective is to remove impediments to residents' well-being, safety, welfare, and rights; (2) to achieve that objective, the program must increase residents' program awareness, foster open communication and access between residents and ombudsmen, and resolve a high percentage of complaints; (3) AOA is not collecting appropriate data to measure the program's impact and needs to develop a standard definition of what constitutes complaint resolution; (4) the extent to which eligible residents use the program varies across states; and (5) although legal barriers to access to nursing home and board and care facility residents have greatly diminished since 1987, some state laws do not provide ombudsmen with access to such facilities' administrative records. GAO also appended a testimony it presented in June 1991 regarding the utilization and impact of the AOA ombudsman program.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: HHS developed a system to collect this information.

    Recommendation: The Commissioner, AOA, should modify the annual data collection instrument to allow measurement of utilization rates for the ombudsman program across states. This would require collecting information on the total number of: (1) complaints received, by type of facility--nursing home or board and care facility; and (2) nursing home and board and care residents or, at a minimum, beds.

    Agency Affected: Department of Health and Human Services: Administration on Aging


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