Since 1998, the Congress and Administration have focused considerable attention on improving the quality of care in the nation's nursing homes, which provide care for about 1.7 million elderly and disabled residents in about 17,000 homes. GAO has earlier reported on serious weaknesses in processes for conducting routine state inspections (surveys) of nursing homes and complaint investigations, ensuring that homes with identified deficiencies correct the problems without recurrence, and providing consistent federal oversight of state survey activities to ensure that nursing homes comply with federal quality standards. GAO was asked to update its work on these issues and to testify on its findings, as reported in Nursing Home Quality: Prevalence of Serious Problems, While Declining, Reinforces Importance of Enhanced Oversight, GAO-03-561 (July 15, 2003). In commenting on this report, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) generally concurred with the recommendations to address survey and oversight weaknesses. In this testimony, GAO addresses (1) the prevalence of serious nursing home quality problems nationwide, (2) factors contributing to continuing weaknesses in states' survey, complaint, and enforcement activities, and (3) the status of key federal efforts to oversee state survey agency performance and improve quality.
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