Some federal data on COVID-19 in nursing homes is raising questions about its accuracy


INDIANA – For the first time, Hoosiers can now access COVID-19 data inside specific nursing homes in Indiana on a federal agency’s website. Although CBS4 is learning some of that information is inconsistent with the data facilities have provided us.

In some cases, the new data set shows a much lower number of deaths than what facilities have confirmed to CBS4.

For months we have been fighting hard to get you more information about COVID-19 cases and deaths inside Indiana’s long term care facilities. That is because the state only provides aggregate totals.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services fulfilled a promise and published its own list in early June. CMS’s numbers include COVID-19 data reported by nursing homes across the country to the CDC. The information includes how many cases and deaths centers have been reported by a facility as of June 7.

The government data though is making it even more confusing for families because the numbers are not adding up. Indiana AARP worries it does not provide a full picture of what has happened in facilities.

“I think it is a safety issue. Folks need to have the best information they can to make informed decision of their loved ones,” said Sarah Waddle, State Director of AARP Indiana.

On Friday, CMS’s chart said no residents have died of COVID-19 at either Homewood Health or Bethany Pointe as of June 7. The company who operates these facilities had confirmed more than 20 deaths at each facility.

Over in Franklin, the federal data shows one resident has died of COVID-19 at Otterbein. That facility though had told us at least 16 people have died.

On their website, CMS acknowledges this is preliminary data and they expected accuracy of those numbers would need to be refined over time.

“We want to trust that the facilities are reporting the right data and we want to trust they are taking care of our loved ones,” said Waddle.

All nursing homes are required to report COVID-19 numbers to the CDC. CMS does not require nursing homes to report cases and deaths that occurred before early May – weeks after the virus spread through facilities. Centers may report cases before early May but they are not required to. CMS warns some facilities may be reporting higher numbers of cases or deaths compared to other facilities due to their retrospective reporting.

“So we are not getting a full picture of what has happened in that facility,” said Waddle.

We can not cross reference the federal agency’s data with a list from Indiana because one is not available to the public. State officials said they do not have a document that contains a cumulative list of COVID-19 cases in its long term care facilities.

“While we have chunks of time, we don’t have a cumulative list of every facility – all of their cases and all of their deaths,” said Dr. Dan Rusyniak, Indiana FSSA Chief Medical Officer, during a press conference on June 10.

State officials said they believe communication from the facility to residents and their representatives helps ensure that information is accurate. Long term care facilities are still required to report COVID-19 data to ISDH.

“We also have 30 other states who are already reporting this data that I am sure we can call and ask how they are doing it,” said Waddle.

The government data shows more than 40 Indiana nursing homes have not reported numbers as of June 7th. These numbers from CMS will be updated every week. The most recent list came out on June 18.

A spokesperson for the agency explained they are working with states to make sure everyone is on the same page so the data is reported correctly.

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