Maybe Those (Rating) Stars Will Really Shine?

service-starsI am talking about the CMS (Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services) rating stars that rate the nation’s nursing homes. Families rely on this system when they’re evaluating nursing homes and their quality of care.

Last month Medicare implemented changes to the rating system on its website Nursing Home Compare. The changes impacted two areas: staffing and quality measuring statistics. Both relied on unverified information provided by the nursing homes themselves. CMS now will look to verify staffing information with objective payroll data. They’ll also use data to verify self-reported quality indicators.

Even a huge bureaucracy like CMS could see that the previous way of doing things — not requiring any check of the information supplied by the homes — was a huge conflict of interest. Since the changes have taken effect the “stars” have realigned. Ratings declined for almost one third of the nursing homes across the country. This certainly seems to provide support that the homes supplied inflated and inaccurate information. Before the change about 80% of all nursing homes received a 4- or 5-star rating (out of 5). But after the change only 50% did (source: New York Times).

These changes are great news for families, who can now be more confident in the information CMS supplies. This increased level of oversight will hopefully motivate the industry to provide better care. As an advocate for the elderly, I am grateful for the realignment of the “Stars” and for better and more reliable information for families.

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