CMS publishes new nursing home rating system

by Jerrold Bartholomew

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has published their long-anticipated 5 star rating system for nursing homes. The breadth of the new rating system is astounding: in Michigan alone, complete information can be found on 425 nursing homes. The system offers information on the number of beds available, the types of payment accepted and, most importantly, several indices of nursing home quality. Each nursing home is given an overall rating, as well as ratings on health inspections, staffing, and quality measures.

One quickly wonders how accurate the system really is. Given how much information is in the system, and how many people collected data, it seems difficult to believe that the system will be completely fair, objective and accurate. And indeed, several ratings for facilities that I know well have lower ratings than I would expect. CMS provides this Note to Nursing Homes to explain their methodology in collecting information. It is also helpful to note CMS’s policy that:

Each nursing home is also required by law to have the latest survey results on hand for the public to review. For the most recent survey results, contact the State Survey Agency. Their phone number is in the Helpful Contacts section of this website.

CMS also provides a number of useful publications related to nursing homes and care of the elderly generally. For instance, there is Medicare’s Guide to Choosing a Nursing Home, the Nursing Home Checklist, and a guide to Your Rights as a Nursing Home Resident.

And for those families seeking to avoid nursing home care, CMS has published resources on alternatives to nursing home care.

Private resources are also available to families seeking assistance with care management, financing, nursing home selection and other related issues. For instance, is an extensive resource where patients and their families can both locate and comment on a wide variety of medical care providers. As an attorney who works with the elderly regularly, I publish several guides to Nursing Home Care, Hospice Care, and Medicaid Planning. Families with aging members can quickly become overwhelmed with the stress of caring for an aging person and our maze of a health care system. These resources are intended to help families find the information they need as quickly as possible.

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