The U.S. News & World Report is known for its rankings of colleges, but it also ranks other institutions, including nursing homes. Having investigated over 15,000 nursing homes in the U.S., the journal singled out 131 of these as “Special-Focus Facilities,” or SFFs. These long term care facilities are termed SFFs if three types of violations occur: first, if the facility fails to pass three consecutive inspections in a row, second, if the violation would’ve affected many residents, and third, if the facility fails to remedy the problems on repeat inspections.
The U.S. News & World Report derives its rankings from Nursing Home Compare, which is a program that is run by the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). The CMS regularly analyzes all nursing homes that receive Medicare and/or Medicaid funds and assigns ratings ranging from one to five stars, with one star being the lowest rating and five stars being the highest rating. The facilities also receive one to five star ratings in three specific categories: nurse staffing, measures of care, and health inspections. Facilities found to be deficient in specific areas of care, and which continue to be deficient in those areas, are placed into a separate category and termed SFFs. The CMS regularly compiles a survey of SFFs, which it publishes on the CMS Certification & Compliance page.
There are probably more than 131 SFFs in the country. However, the approximate $1 million sum that is allocated for investigating nursing homes only allows for about 135 homes to be analyzed and monitored. Based on its total nursing home count, each state is allowed a certain number of SFF submissions per year; for example, California is allowed six, while Vermont, only one.
Some states which have had nursing homes just added to the SFF list include: Arizona (1), California (2), Florida (2), Illinois (2), Oregon (1), New York (1), Pennsylvania (1), Texas (4), and Virginia (1). Some of these states have additional SFFs, while others have past SFFs that have shown improvement and/or have graduated (are in the process of being taken off the list). When researching a potential nursing home in a specific state, it pays to look through the latest CMS Certification & Compliance Report carefully.
If a long term care facility does not remedy the problems that are noted by the CMS, it can lose its Medicare and Medicaid credentials, leading to it being shut down or having to rely entirely on private resident funds.