WASHINGTON – Sen. Chuck Grassley is pressing the federal agency that oversees health accrediting organizations to describe all statutory and other barriers that prevent the public release of hospital inspection reports. Grassley’s inquiry comes after investigative news reports concluded that the top accrediting organization, the Joint Commission, usually doesn’t revoke or otherwise adjust accreditation even when serious safety problems are found. Since the inspection reports are not made public, patients, and lawmakers are in the dark about the problems.
“Recent news reports have provided additional examples of the Joint Commission’s failure to adequately hold accountable facilities that have not properly cared for patients,” Grassley wrote this week to Seema Verma, administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), which oversees health accrediting organizations. “The Joint Commission appears to be unable to aggressively enforce the necessary standards on all facilities. Making facility inspections reports public may go a long way to providing the necessary additional information for patients and their families to make informed decisions about where to seek care.”
CMS initially proposed making the inspection reports public but withdrew the proposed rule, citing a statutory prohibition against the public release. Grassley asked CMS to explain all statutory provisions that would need to be changed for the regulation to be promulgated.
Grassley noted that in response to his requests for information from the Joint Commission, it produced some information requested but not all. On Universal Health Service’s Shadow Mountain facility, an Oklahoma mental health facility in the news over safety allegations, Grassley wrote, “the Joint Commission refused to provide the scope of each performance issue at the facility; details to indicate the actual problems identified; how many problems had been fixed; and how each was fixed. The Joint Commission also did not produce inspection reports.”
Grassley said The Wall Street Journal “provided additional examples of the Joint Commission’s apparent failure to adequately hold accountable facilities that have not properly cared for” their patients.
A long-time transparency advocate, Grassley is the co-author of the Physician Payments Sunshine Act disclosure requirements for drug company payments to doctors. Between 2013 and 2016, industry payments totaled $24.94 billion, covering 40.77 million records. Grassley is the lead co-sponsor of pending bipartisan legislation to apply the disclosure requirements to nurse practitioners and physician assistants.
Grassley asked for a CMS response by Oct. 2. His letter is available here.