Medicare offers new rating system for nursing homes

Friday, December 26, 2008

A new Medicare Five Star national ratings system has been created to help consumers, their families and caregivers compare nursing homes more easily. This system provides an opportunity to compare the quality of care at 16,000 U.S. nursing homes.

Ratings are taken from health inspections, staffing and quality measures. A star is provided for each of these three sources. These are then combined to calculate an overall rating

Nursing homes vary in the quality of care and services they provide to their residents. Reviewing health inspection results, staffing data, and quality measure data are three important ways to measure nursing home quality. This information gives you a "snap shot" of the care individual nursing homes give.

This rating system is based on continued efforts as a result of the Omnibus Reconciliation Act of 1987 (OBRA '87), a nursing home reform law, and more recent quality improvement campaigns such as the Advancing Excellence in America's Nursing Homes, a coalition of consumers, health care providers, and nursing home professionals.

The Web site for the ratings will be updated four times a year. The ratings measure how centers perform on state inspections, giving lower scores to those needing return visits to correct deficiencies. They also measure ratios of registered nurses and nurse aides to residents and 10 quality measurements, including the percentage of patients in restraints, with pressure sores and who have moderate to severe pain.

The Five Star Quality Rating System is not a substitute for visiting the nursing home. This system can give you important information, help you compare nursing homes by topics you consider most important, and help you think of questions to ask when you visit the nursing home.

Use the Five-Star ratings together with other sources of information. For example, you can use Nursing Home Compare to search and compare nursing homes by city, state, or zip code. Choosing a nursing home that's near family and friends can be very important to your quality of life in the nursing home.

For information about the rating system or to check out nursing homes, visit

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