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Last year, more than ninety percent of nursing homes in the United States were cited for violations of federal safety and health standards; seventeen percent of these caused actual harm or immediate danger to the patients. Some of the problems included bedsores, poor nutrition, medication mistakes, abuse and neglect. Federal investigators concluded for-profit nursing homes were more likely to have problems than other types of nursing homes. About two-thirds of all nursing homes across the U.S. are for-profit entities, twenty-seven percent are owned by non-profit organizations and six percent are run by the government.

Inspectors received 37,150 complaints regarding conditions in nursing homes last year; thirty-nine percent of these were substantiated. One-fifth of the complaints that were verified by officials involved the neglect or abuse of patients. The Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services has issued a compliance guide for nursing homes to follow, stating some facilities have failed to provide an appropriate amount of staff and have failed to hire those with enough clinical expertise to best serve patients. Researchers have found that patients receive the best care while at nursing homes with a higher ratio of nurses to patients.

The Inspector General also found instances where nursing homes are billing Medicare and Medicaid for services never performed. More than 1.5 million people live in the 15,000 nursing homes located around the United States. These homes are supposed to be inspected annually to meet federal standards as a condition of participating in Medicare/Medicaid. In December, the Bush administration plans to implement a five-star ranking system to describe the quality of care. The rankings will be published on a federal website where the best facilities will receieve five stars.

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