In Maryland, uneven oversight of nursing homes allows some patients to slip through the cracks.

UPDATE: Dec. 21, 2016: Maryland’s attorney general takes action against nursing home operator¬†Neiswanger Management Services (NMS). ¬†Attorney General Brian Frosh files suit in Montgomery County Circuit Court alleging NMS kicked out residents to increase Medicare payments. NMS denies any wrongdoing. See Washington Post reporter Dan Morse’s story for more.

COLLEGE PARK, Md. (Oct. 4) – A major new Capital News Service investigation of Maryland nursing homes called “Discharging Trouble” has found:

  • Patients like 59 year-old Vonda Wagner who literally fell into a “black hole” in the regulatory system designed to protect nursing home patients;
  • Maryland state nursing home regulators have a persistent staffing problem and are struggling to keep up;
  • Financial issues between two federal health insurance programs – Medicare and Medicaid – provides nursing home operators an incentive to discharge patients when the more generous Medicare benefit expires;
  • A creaky state regulatory system clashing with the bottom-line mentality of modern nursing home chains can leave vulnerable patients in unlicensed assisted living facilities that are often inadequate and dangerous.

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The “Discharging Trouble” investigation was conducted last spring by students in then-Ph.D. student Rob Wells’ JOUR459e Business of Journalism class.

Now an assistant professor at the University of Arkansas, Wells wrote about the fearless journalism committed by his students:

“I am very proud of their work and dedication. The learning curve on this topic was steep and they put in an extraordinary effort to tie together the many threads. My hats are off especially to Zoe Sagalow, now a Merrill College graduate and a reporter at Tax Notes, and Morgan Eichensehr, also a Merrill graduate and a reporter at the Baltimore Business Journal.”

Wells added, “Sean Mussenden at Capital News Service (Digital Bureau Director) did a great job with the website and excellent editing. (Visiting Fellow) Tom Bettag and (Eaton Broadcast Chair) Mark Feldstein guided the video work. And (Abell Professor in Baltimore Journalism) Sandy Banisky devoted hours of her time brainstorming, editing, meeting with students and yet even more editing. I am honored to have worked with these students and first-class educators.”

Wells discussed the project with Merrill journalist Simone Thomas:


Zoe Sagalow – now a federal tax and data reporter at Tax Notes Today in Washington, D.C. – said, “I’m very glad that we found this story and that Merrill and CNS supported us in pursuing it. It was a rare and valuable experience to do investigative reporting while still in school. Rob Wells taught us about investigative reporting in general as well as specifics to apply to this significant project. He brought in other faculty to advise us on various aspects of the project. The way our class collaborated with other students and professors/editors outside of our class contributed to making CNS feel like a professional newsroom.”For more information contact:

David Ottalini
Sr. Communications Manager
Philip Merrill College of Journalism
301-405-1321