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CMS Earns 3 stars for Updating the Zagat’s of Nursing Homes (Part Two)

  Alan Fuchsberg  |  February 20, 2015  |  

We are back to the subject of the nursing home rating system put together by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). When we left off in our Feb. 14 post, we were talking about the federal government’s database of Medicaid-eligible nursing homes and the ratings given each facility. While a valuable tool in many ways, the rating system had some serious flaws. CMS, for example, did not verify data supplied by the facilities, and state inspection findings were not included.

Last summer, the New York Times brought these shortcomings to the public’s attention. Consumers who visited Nursing Home Compare were looking for nursing homes and assisted living facilities that would provide quality care, a good staffing ratio, and clean, pleasant surroundings for a loved one. CMS was not giving them accurate assessments; they could find out the truth through their own research or, sadly, their experience with the care facility.

New Nursing Home Rating System Goes Live

Today, a revised rating system goes live. There are fewer four- and five-star rated homes in the Nursing Home Compare system because CMS has raised the bar for quality measures. The higher threshold is just the latest in a series of improvements. In October, CMS announced that it would be verifying staffing data provided by the facilities through payroll data. At the same time, CMS launched an audit program that will verify the quality statistics provided by the facilities.

Nursing homes have voiced their opposition to the change in quality ratings. Consumers, they say, will conclude from a lower rating that quality is going downhill when, in fact, it has not changed — or, in some cases, when quality has improved. CMS responds that the website will be updated to include an explanation of the changes.

CMS is also counting on consumers to realize that there were a lot of five-star ratings in the past, and that just didn’t feel right. In 2009, when the database was launched, the rating was not easy to come by, just 11 percent earned five stars. By 2013, however, nearly 30 percent received the highest rating. The agency did not mention whether any additional system enhancements were on the horizon.

If you have questions about nursing home ratings, we invite you to contact our law firm.

Data Source: The New York Times, “Government Will Change How it Rates Nursing Homes,” Katie Thomas, Feb. 12, 2015

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