New Rating System for Nursing Homes
Medicare Web Site Will Have Monthly Rankings of Thousands of Nursing Homes
Dec. 18, 2008 -- Federal officials unveiled a five-star rating system that
for the first time ranks the quality of the nation's 15,800 nursing homes that
participate in Medicare or Medicaid.
A nursing home reform group praised the move, calling it a step in the right
direction for helping consumers evaluate nursing homes.
But a spokesman for the nursing home industry called the ranking system a
great idea that is being prematurely implemented.
"They rushed this thing out there," Larry Minnix of the American
Association of Home and Services for the Aging tells WebMD. "If they had
spent more time thinking through the specifics, they would have a product that
would be more useful to consumers."
Nursing Home Ranking System
The rating system is based on state and federal health inspection surveys,
quality-of-care data, and staffing information.
A five-star ranking indicates that a nursing home is performing well above
average and one star means a facility ranks well below average.
Rankings will be updated monthly and can be found at the Center for Medicare
& Medicaid Services (CMS) web site (www.medicare.gov) under the search tool
Compare Nursing Homes in Your Area.
In a morning news conference, CMS Acting Administrator Kerry Weems told
reporters that the new rating system should give poor-performing nursing homes
an incentive to improve the quality of the care they provide.
"I would expect that consumers with family members in a lower-performing
facility would begin a conversation with the nursing home operator about why
the facility scored low and what was going to be done about it," he
Weems revealed that:
- 12% of the nation's federally assisted nursing homes received five stars in
the first monthly rating.
- 22% of the nursing homes got just one star.
- 66% got two, three, or four stars.
In addition to the overall star rating, consumers can access detailed
information about specific nursing homes through the web site.
"But it is important to emphasize that no rating system and no web site
can substitute for families actually visiting the nursing homes they are
considering for a family member," Weems said.
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
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.