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Highlights

Since 1998, GAO has issued numerous reports on nursing home quality and safety that identified significant weaknesses in federal and state oversight. Under contract with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), states conduct annual nursing home inspections, known as surveys, to assess compliance with federal quality and safety requirements. States also investigate complaints filed by family members or others in between annual surveys. When state surveys find serious deficiencies, CMS may impose sanctions to encourage compliance with federal requirements. GAO was asked to assess CMS's progress since 1998 in addressing oversight weaknesses. GAO (1) reviewed the trends in nursing home quality from 1999 through January 2005, (2) evaluated the extent to which CMS's initiatives have addressed survey and oversight problems identified by GAO and CMS, and (3) identified key challenges to continued progress in ensuring resident health and safety. GAO reviewed federal data on the results of state nursing home surveys and federal surveys assessing state performance; conducted additional analyses in five states with large numbers of nursing homes; reviewed the status of its prior recommendations; and identified key workforce and workload issues confronting CMS and states.

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