A freeze then a burn?

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Nursing homes to be notified of initial 'five-star' ratings starting Monday
Nursing homes to be notified of initial 'five-star' ratings starting Monday

News that nursing home ratings are going to be frozen on the federal website for consumer research drew a lot of interest from providers this week. And it should have.

Not because the announcement was totally unexpected. It wasn't. Instead, providers should be grimly resigning themselves to the fact that the screws are tightening even more on them. This is going to burn for many providers.

When the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services first started posting certain survey and ranking information on the Nursing Home Compare website, much of the information was simply too dense. Although originally there was a lot of provider anxiety, it subsided rather quickly. The public saw lots of numbers but could make little sense made of them. And they didn't fuss about it, either.

Now, however, one can rank a nursing home right up there with the latest movie release or bistro down the street. Never mind that people's lives are at stake in one of these categories and just a good night out is with the others. They all get handy-dandy stars to guide consumers.

Starting April 23, CMS will freeze quality measure data and five-star quality ratings for six months. Those putrid green faces are on the providers who hiccupped and had a bad previous quarter. By the time the data are unfrozen, new quality measure data from MDS 3.0 will have been collected.

By then, the site also will be giving consumers better opportunities to file complaints against you. “Consumer rights” will be placed more prominently and the ability to fax in a standardized complaint form will be available. (“At least it's going to be an efficient execution,” some providers must be muttering under their breath.)

Then in July, CMS will start posting even more information for consumers to salivate over. It will include the number of substantiated complaints received, as well as instances of “enforceable actions” such as civil monetary penalties and denials of payment or new admissions. Think that's bad? Originally, there was talk of publicizing ALL complaints, not just substantiated ones. Who said this was going to be so grim?


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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 Marty Stempniak.