New Federal Website Can Provide Assistance in Selecting a Nursing Home

Dorian Martin Health Guide

    The U.S. federal government has created a new website ( that rates 15,800 nursing homes that participate in the public insurance system.  The website, which is administered by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, rates nursing homes on a five-star scale. Approximately 12 percent received the five-star rating (which was the best), while 22 percent received a one-star rating.

    The rating system utilizes measures of the percent of residents who have bed sores after being in the facility for three months, the number of residents whose mobility decreased following admission, and whether residents received recommended medical care.  The website also includes staffing levels and describes whether the facility is for-profit or not-for-profit. The website, which will be updated monthly, will include links to information about community-based alternatives to nursing homes.

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    Some nursing home operators are expression concerns about the rating system. The system “is poorly planned, prematurely implemented and ham-handedly rolled out,” said Larry Minnix, president and chief executive officer of the American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging, an industry trade group. Consumer groups also believe there are potential problems with the data, such as staffing levels. This data, based on self-reported information given prior to state surveys, is widely recognized as unreliable. In addition, the rating system does not incorporate surveys of patient and family satisfaction.

    Alice H. Hedt, executive director of the national Citizens’ Coalition for Nursing Home Reform, said that consumers should consider the federal rating system, but not rely on the ratings as the only factor when selecting a nursing home. She warned that nursing homes also may receive a high rating that is not warranted. “Our initial reaction is that consumers should probably avoid any facility with a one- or two-star rating and even a three-star rating unless people they trust convince them that the rating is inaccurate or unfair,” Hedt said.

Published On: December 22, 2008