Don't like the new ratings system? Welcome to our world

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John O'Connor
John O'Connor

The content in the angry letter sounded all-too familiar:

"While we continue to be concerned that CMS's methodology is flawed, our concern is amplified by the fact that further analysis performed since the star ratings were first released show that substantive errors were made in executing CMS's chosen methodology."

Ah yes, another nursing home organization taking issue with the Five-Star ratings system, right? Not quite. Actually, the authors were blasting a new ratings system for hospitals.

In a 12-page wish list sent to Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services boss Seema Verma last week, the American Hospital Association called on regulators to suspend the “deeply flawed” program, which is less than a year old.

It's hard to read the latest missive without getting a sense of déjà vu. After all, parts are eerily similar in tone and substance to correspondence that post-acute care operators were routinely dashing off in 1998. That's when the Nursing Home Compare ratings system made its debut.

Last week's letter repeatedly criticizes ratings irregularities that can lead to inaccurate report cards: "Too many hospitals have been incorrectly classified into star rating categories that are different than those that should have been assigned," the author notes.

I don't think there's much debate over whether the hospital lobby is powerful or whether it holds considerable sway among lawmakers in Washington. It is and it does.

But CMS has heard it all before. And by all accounts, ratings for various healthcare sectors will not be going away any time soon. Providers may universally loathe them, but consumers sure don't.

In fact, regulators announced just before the AHA letter arrived that it will not be updating star ratings for hospitals in July, despite the very real pressure it was feeling to do so.

So while it would be nice to tell our friends on the acute-care side that those unfair report cards are a temporary concern, why spread false hope?

Yes, the new hospital ratings may get tweaked and will likely become a bit more accurate. But hospitals had best get used to them. They are here to stay. And all the letters in the world are probably not going to do much to change that reality.

Email John O'Connor at john.oconnor@mcknights.com.

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Daily Editors' Notes

McKnight's Daily Editors' Notes features commentary on the latest in long-term care news and issues. Entries are written by Editorial Director John O'Connor, Editor James M. Berklan, Senior Editor Elizabeth Newman and Staff Writer Emily Mongan.

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