Medicare has been posting vaccination information online for months, but it was on a site designed for researchers and industry. One way to navigate it involved accessing a huge spreadsheet. Another approach called for hunting around on a map for little red dots that represented nursing homes.
The statistics reveal big disparities in vaccination rates among states, and sometimes wide differences within states and communities.
Among the organizations complaining were Consumer Voice, which advocates for quality improvement in long-term care, and the Center for Medicare Advocacy, a watchdog group.
Their concerns were echoed by two senior Democratic lawmakers, Sens. Ron Wyden of Oregon and Bob Casey of Pennsylvania. Citing an Associated Press report on breakthrough infections among nursing home residents, the two lawmakers urged Medicare to move quickly. Wyden chairs the Finance Committee, which oversees Medicare and Medicaid, and Casey heads the Aging Committee.
The new online tool reminds consumers comparing facilities that higher percentages of vaccinated residents and staff “are better.” Information on COVID-19 vaccination rates is available just below each nursing home's ratings. The data reflect the latest reported by nursing homes to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Medicare officials say they are encouraged that even as the delta variant has swept across the country, outbreaks in nursing homes have not raced out of control as happened last year. They attribute that to the high rate of residents who have gotten their shots. Nursing home residents are expected to be top on the priority for booster shots as they become available.
The nursing home industry says it fully supports vaccination of staffers and residents, but that Medicare should also publish vaccine levels for hospitals and other medical care settings.