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Health Care Reform:

Health Insurance & Affordable Care Act

New Rating System for Nursing Homes

Medicare Web Site Will Have Monthly Rankings of Thousands of Nursing Homes

Industry: Rating System Flawed

Minnix says the five-star rating system is flawed because the information used to determine the rating often is flawed.

He points out that there is wide variation in the quality of the nursing home inspection process from state to state, which needs to be addressed at the federal level.

And while the staffing evaluation includes information on total staff numbers and staff hours spent with residents, it does not include information on personnel turnover, which is a big factor in continuity of care.

"If you have 100% turnover, or 50% of your staffers are [temporary] workers, the quality of the care is going to suffer," he says.

Alice H. Hedt of the consumer group National Citizens' Coalition for Nursing Home Reform says it will take time to evaluate how well the rating system reflects what is really going on in the nation's nursing homes.

She says consumers should definitely consult the star rating when evaluating a nursing home, but agreed that it should not be the only factor in choosing a home.

Hedt praised CMS for making previously hard-to-find information on nursing homes easily accessible.

"We encourage consumers to drill down into the information and find out what it says about inspections and staffing and quality measures," she tells WebMD.

She points out that all kinds of information is available, including the bed-sore rate and the rate of patient restraint at individual facilities.

"After I looked at the overview, I would look specifically at [bed] sore rates and restraint rates," she says. "If either of these rates are high, that is an indicator that there is a problem."

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