Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD)

A leader in Congress has called for an evaluation of the nursing home five-star rating system in light of a recent New York Times article. Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) requested that Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services officials brief his staff by Sept. 16.

One area of concern is the heavy reliance on nursing homes’ self-reported data about staffing levels and quality of care, which may not be regularly audited for accuracy, Cummings stated in his Aug. 26 letter to CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner.

The Times also reported that nursing homes can temporarily boost staffing just before an anticipated survey to inflate their star rating in this category, Cummings noted. He wants to know when CMS will begin using payroll system data to verify staffing levels, as required under the Affordable Care Act. Several other legislators have sent a separate letter to Tavenner urging swift action on this issue.

CMS also should identify “significant benefits and challenges” in potentially expanding the ratings system to include state-level enforcement actions and consumer complaints, Cummings wrote. In addition, he inquired about how the rating system has led to improvements in nursing home quality of care.

Cummings is ranking member on the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. Click here to access the complete letter.