Federal regulators are letting states do a lousy job of assessing nursing home quality, an advocacy group argues.

The group, the National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care, says the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) need to overhaul the current nursing home quality survey system.

CMS lets states handle the surveys, and it has established a survey operations manual that lets states wiggle out of correcting many problems that CMS finds, such as state failures to notice nursing home staffing problems, the group says in letter to CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner.

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The group says CMS should create a new state survey quality enforcement office, require an independent entity to audit the state nursing home quality surveys, and change the survey program rules to hold states more accountable for survey and enforcement failures.

CMS also should help make the information easier for members of the public to see, by posting information about all sanctions against a nursing home online, the group says.

One private group has posted an unofficial version of the information online.

Advocates for the state-based quality survey system argue that it helps hold down the costs of the program and ensure that nursing homes are reviewed by survey teams that understand local conditions.

See also: Medicare nursing home rating system draws fire

(Photo: CMS Administration Marilyn Tavenner. AP photo/J. Scott Applewhite)