Nursing homes lukewarm to government's new five-star rating system

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Bruce Yarwood, AHCA CEO
Bruce Yarwood, AHCA CEO
Nursing home operators wasted little time Wednesday issuing rebuttals to the federal government's announcement that it would create and publish individual facility rankings on its Web site by the end of the year.

While lauding the goal of delivering better care to residents, providers immediately pushed for the inclusion of consumer and staff satisfaction survey results in the matrix that will determine rankings. They also uniformly criticized the current survey and certification system, which will heavily influence rankings, according to regulators.

"Although we applaud the longstanding work of CMS, we do not believe that an index which relies upon a broken survey system is an accurate way to measure quality," said Bruce Yarwood, president and CEO of the American Health Care Association, in a statement prepared before government officials made their formal announcement.

"A rating system that helps consumers identify both high and low performing nursing homes is essential," added Larry Minnix of the American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging. Minnix said the system should be based on four "pillars:" consumer satisficaction, staff satisfaction, clinical outcomes and public oversight.

"The public oversight process will be the most controversial because that pillar is the most developed, yet has the largest cracks in its foundation," Minnix said in a statement. "Numerous expert opinions and reports speak to its inconsistency, subjectivity, lack of timeliness and unintelligibility to the public."

This will be the first time that CMS will offer such a rating system for the fee-for-service, or traditional Medicare program. Last year, the agency initiated a star rating system for health and prescription drug plans that are available to Medicare beneficiaries.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services is soliciting comments from all interested parties over the summer months, when the criteria and method of creating the rankings will be determined, said Acting Administrator Kerry Weems.

A sample of what a five-star ranking Web view could look like is available at http://www.cms.hhs.gov/PressContacts/10_PR_fivestar.asp. Comments may be sent to BetterCare@cms.hhs.gov. Weems added during a special conference call Wednesday that facilities' star rankings would likely be updated quarterly.
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