Coming Soon: Five-Star Rating System for Nursing Homes

You can eat at a five-star restaurant or stay at a five-star hotel. By year’s end, you’ll also be able to select a five-star nursing home. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has announced plans to implement a one- to five-star rating system for nursing homes to help consumers evaluate a nursing home’s quality when selecting a facility. The ratings would appear on the agency’sNursing Home Compare web site.

CMS will base the ratings on government inspection results, as well as staffing data and quality measures. Yet to be determined is whether the ratings will include other information, such as whether nursing homes treat patients with dementia or those on ventilators.

“We know the public is hungry for information,” said acting CMS Administrator Kerry Weems. He said lower ratings “will likely put” nursing homes “on the path to improvement . . . I don’t think we’re going to see many people who are very anxious to put a loved one in a one-star home.”

But the new rating system was criticized both by consumer advocates and the nursing home industry, for different reasons.

Toby Edelman, senior policy attorney with the Center for Medicare Advocacy, said that two of three criteria CMS plans to use for the ratings – staffing data and quality measures – are “self-reported by nursing facilities and are inaccurate.” Edelman said, “Relying on nursing homes to describe accurately how well they are doing . . . just doesn’t make sense.”

Meanwhile, Bruce Yarwood, president of the American Health Care Association, a long-term care industry trade group, criticized CMS’s use of government inspection results as criteria for the ratings and said CMS should consider consumer and staff satisfaction. Yarwood said, “We do not believe that an index which relies on a broken survey system is an accurate way to measure quality.”

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