Star ratings? Give 'em two big thumbs down

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James M. Berklan, Editor
James M. Berklan, Editor
For a while, it appeared the feds had pulled it off: Nobody was going to be watching the right hand while the left hand fiddled away.

Oh, there were curious observers. Some even wondered aloud what was going on. Some said things simply were not they way they should be.

But the underlying feeling was that, well, there just wasn't much feeling to the inquiries and protests. The feds, after all, not only had both hands in the game, they owned the marbles and call the tunes. Right? Wrong.

And that's just what came screaming out of one of long-term care's most gentlemanly keyboards. The night before the federal government's new “five-star” rating system of facilities was supposed to be made public, the roof blew off the house.

It was William L. “Larry” Minnix, the nursing home association leader with the soft Georgia twang who started shouting louder than all others that the Emperor's new suit of clothes was short more than a few strands of thread.

Already irked by the fact that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services was rushing a new facility rating system into place before presidential administrations would change, Minnix was outraged at the way it was being rolled out. Just four days after CMS' survey and certification director had told a national audience that nursing homes would get the first look at their individual star ratings, it was apparent that such wasn't the case.

Members of the national media and state survey agencies were sent the entire national database first. Meanwhile, providers hadn't received even their own rating, as promised just a few days earlier, provider advocates howled.
To make matters worse, CMS said it was unable to give providers the list it had already sent to the media and regulators. This came during a conference call CMS hastily held to enlist providers' help with the already botched rollout, Minnix noted. One bright state exec, Dana Petrowsky of Iowa, simply went to a local reporter and had HIM to send the list to her.

Let's give Minnix the last word about the first day of the star system: He called it “the right idea, poorly planned, prematurely implemented and ham-handedly rolled out.”

Have the guys who couldn't even get their facts straight on the rollout been swept out of town yet?
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