Senators want to know more about nursing home ratings

Senator Ron Wyden
Senator Ron Wyden

The Government Accountability Office is becoming well-versed at digging into the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services' nursing home ratings system. 

In November, the GAO released a report saying that providers had too much influence on the ratings. Consumers were subject to tough-to-comprehend writing and graphics, and not enough information about costs, the agency added.

Then this spring, the ratings were rebased, lowering many operators' scores.

Now, Sens. Robert Casey (R-PA) and Ron Wyden (D-OR) have requested, and been granted by the GAO, an examination of how CMS ensures the data used in the Five-Star system is reliable and timely. They also want to know if there are meaningful differences between the various star levels, and how the number and types of complaints a facility receives align with the rating system.

Casey also asked that stakeholders identify what they believe to be the strengths and weaknesses of the system. In addition, he has requested insights into how residents and their families use the Nursing Home Compare web tool.

In 2008, nursing homes became the first providers subjected to a government star-rating “report card.” They have had a tolerate-hate relationship with it ever since.