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Thursday, October 9, 2014

Medicare Revises Nursing Home Rating System

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The federal government on Monday announced substantial changes to the government’s five-star rating program for nursing homes, a widely used consumer tool that has been criticized for its reliance on self-reported, unverified data.
The five-star rating system has become the gold standard for evaluating the nation’s more than 15,000 nursing homes since it was put in place five years ago, even though two of the major criteria used to rate the facilities — staffing levels and quality statistics — are reported by the nursing homes themselves and generally are not audited by the federal government.
On Monday, officials said they would make several changes, starting in January, aimed at addressing some of these concerns.
Nursing homes will have to begin reporting their staffing levels quarterly using an electronic system that can be verified with payroll data. And officials will initiate a nationwide auditing program aimed at checking whether the so-called quality measures rating — which is based on information collected about every patient — is accurate.
Beginning in January, nursing homes’ ratings will also be based partly on the percentage of its residents being given antipsychotic drugs.
In August, The New York Times reported that the rating system relied so heavily on unverified and incomplete information that even homes with a documented history of quality problems were earning top ratings. The number of homes with above-average ratings...
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