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Star-Rating System Helps Consumers Choose Nursing Home

Posted by Jane Akre
Thursday, December 18, 2008 11:30 AM EST
Category: Major Medical, Protecting Your Family
Tags: Nursing Home and Elder Abuse, FDA and Prescription Drugs, Alzheimer's Dosease, Dementia, Elder Americans, Medicare

A new rating system goes into effect for nursing homes today.



IMAGE SOURCE: ©iStockphoto/ nursing home resident/ author: MarkPapas


We use the five-star rating system when choosing a hotel – why not a nursing home? 

That’s the theory behind a new rating system proposed by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. 

The information is already available on the Medicare Nursing Home Compare Web site, but this system makes it easier for consumers to use.

Under the rating system, which is to go into effect today, the nation’s 16,000 nursing homes would receive stars based on state inspections, staffing levels, quality assessment such as the number of residents with pressure sores and even the cracks in the walls.

“From a consumer viewpoint, it’s not stringent enough,” says Alice Hedt, executive director of the National Citizens’ Coalition for Nursing Home Reform.

Hedt says consumers need to consider not just the star ratings, but also their own sense of a place. Ask the question- what is the customer satisfaction among those already there?

Adversely, a home may rate better than the care they actually give.

In Indiana, eight nonprofit nursing homes got one-star for staffing even though they have some of the highest staffing ratios in the state, reports AP. The group’s owner believes the one-star rating is the result of a glitch.

As far as staffing data, it is self-reported and widely recognized as unreliable.

Other critics say the system is not ready to launch because it is poorly planned and prematurely implemented.

The new Five-Star Rating System launched at www.medicare.gov.

The National Association of State Long-Term Care Ombudsman Programs (NASOP), a nonprofit comprised of ombudsmen representing their state programs, commends the new system.

“We are very supportive of giving consumers information to select a nursing home and to monitor the home’s performance,” said Beverley Laubert, the association president in a statement. “And we urge consumers and their families to seek an understanding of how the ratings are derived and to use the ratings in conjunction with other resources.”

State and local long-term care ombudsmen advocate quality of life and care as well as respect for individual rights. They can provide consumers with information about homes in their area and explain regulatory survey results.  Consumers looking for the State Ombudsman phone number at www.medicare.gov or at www.nasop.org

Consumers Considering a Nursing Home 

What to look for:

  • Visit the home and review staffing data to make sure that every shift, every day is covered
  • Observe – do residents look clean and well groomed? Are call lights answered in a timely Manner?  Do staff address one another and residents with respect?

Binding Arbitration

Consumers may also want to consider the small print on a nursing home or care facility contract.   Binding arbitration clauses have become standard.

The NCCNHR also supports the Fairness in Nursing Home Arbitration Act (S. 2838 and H.R. 6126), that invalidates mandatory arbitration clauses in nursing home and long-term care facility contracts. Under the bill, residents would no longer be required to give up their right to sue a facility if it abuses or neglects residents.

If signing away your rights to seek a remedy in the courts is contained in a proposed contract, consumers should know they are relinquishing their rights. #

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