Study finds more ED visits, higher Medicare costs at private equity-owned nursing homes

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Private equity-owned nursing homes saw an increase in emergency room visits and hospitalizations among long-term residents and an increase in Medicare costs, an investigation published Nov. 19 in JAMA Health Forum found.

Researchers analyzed 9,864 nursing homes in the U.S., including 9,632 residents in 302 nursing homes acquired by private equity firms and 249, 771 residents in 9,562 other for-profit nursing homes. A national database of private equity nursing home acquisitions was merged with Medicare claims and other assessments from 2012 to 2018. 

Ambulatory care sensitive visits to the emergency room and hospitalizations were used as indicators of quality of care. Residents at private equity-owned facilities were 11 percent more likely to have an ACS emergency room visit and 8.7 percent more likely to be hospitalized than residents at other for-profit facilities. Consequently, Medicare costs were 3.9 percent higher. 

"Our findings indicate that private equity firm-owned facilities offer lower quality long-term care," said Mark Unruh, PhD, associate professor of population health science at Weill Cornell Medicine. "These residents are among the most vulnerable in our healthcare system and a lack of transparency in ownership makes it difficult to identify facilities with private equity ownership, which consumers may be interested in knowing."

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