The star ratings of nearly a third of the nation’s skilled nursing facilities were lowered, as federal officials readjusted quality standards in the face of criticism that the ratings were inaccurate and artificially inflated.
Federal officials said they hoped the changes would make it easier for consumers to differentiate between skilled nursing facilities, as well as spur skilled nursing facilities to make improvements.
The changes that took effect were mainly aimed at one of three major criteria used to rate the homes on the Nursing Home Compare website, which ranks more than 15,000 skilled nursing facilities on a one- to- five-star scale. Officials essentially adjusted the curve for the quality-measures rating, which is based on information collected about every patient.
Representatives for the nursing home industry said that rather than helping consumers, the changes could frustrate them.
Advocates for nursing home residents, however, described the changes as long overdue.
Nursing Home Compare has become the gold standard for evaluating the nation’s nursing homes, even as it has been criticized for relying on self-reported, unverified data. The website receives 1.4 million visits a year.
The New York Times reported that the rating system relied so heavily on unverified information that even homes with a documented history of quality problems were earning top ratings. Two of the three major criteria used to rate operations — staffing levels and quality measures statistics — were reported by the homes and not audited by the federal government.
The federal government announced that it would start requiring nursing homes to report their staffing levels quarterly — using an electronic system that can be verified with payroll data — and that it would begin a nationwide auditing program aimed at checking whether a home’s quality statistic was accurate.
Before the changes, about 80 percent of the nation’s skilled nursing facilities received a four- or five-star rating out of five on their quality measures score; afterward, nearly half did. The number of homes receiving one star in that area increased to 13 percent, from 8.5 percent, after the reclassification.
The changes led to declines in the quality-measures rating of 63 percent of homes. The staffing scores of about 13 percent of homes also fell because of other adjustments.
Federal officials said the higher bar reflected the fact that the industry had improved since December 2008, when the rating system was put into effect.
About the Author
Attorney Steven Peck has been practicing law since 1981. A former successful business owner, Mr. Peck initially focused his legal career on business law. Within the first three years, after some colleagues and friend’s parents endured nursing home neglect and elder abuse, he continued his education to begin practicing elder law and nursing home abuse law.