Nursing Homes Rated

An online tool has been developed by a federal agency for comparing nursing homes.

A Brief Story

Government programmes to upgrade the quality of patient care at nursing homes are moving forward and there is a website for consumers that can use to evaluate nursing homes.

The Centres for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) had launched the original programme, to determine if cash incentives will lead to improvements in nursing-home care, especially in the areas of nursing staff and preventable hospitalisation.

CMS separately began ranking nursing homes according to the results of inspections, staffing information, and measures of quality. The “Nursing Home Compare” system, which assigns from one to five stars for every nursing home of some 16,000 registered facilities, is at medicare.gov/NHCompare.

CMS also flags certain of the more problematic facilities, which reached 135 in number at one point.

“We have taken assertive steps to ensure that nursing home residents have adequate protection and to promote improvements among different providers,” noted Thomas Hamilton, the director of the agency’s survey and certification arm.

Some three million Americans will need such care every year. But nursing-home care is frequently expensive, unlike most other needed healthcare services. Many of the disabled and elderly therefore must pay for nursing-home care by themselves, since they either earn far too much to be eligible for Medicaid, or else aren’t eligible for coverage under Medicare.

Limited Coverage Under Medicare

A lot of seniors would be surprised by the limited coverage provided by Medicare for such services: up to 100 days and only after at least 3 days of hospitalization.

To be eligible, a patient needs an order from a doctor in order to enter a nursing-care facility. It must be for treatment of the same injury or sickness for which he or she was being hospitalized, with services that include IV injections or physical therapy, as noted by the AARP, a consumer advocacy group for retirees.

Beneficiaries pay nothing during the initial period for up to 20 days and $133.50 per day thereafter, with full costs in effect after 100 days.

Advocates note that more consumers need to do more research before choosing a facility, for patient care can differ widely. They recommend that patients, along with friends and family, visit prospective nursing homes in person, talk with patients residing there, and review the information they provide.

Updated Site Information

The CMS “Nursing Home Compare” tool is useful for a start. It can list facilities with summary information, based on federal and state inspections and data provided to regulatory agencies.

There are a few caveats. One is a warning from the National Citizens’ Coalition for Nursing Home Reform, a consumer advocacy group, that certain records submitted to the comparison site for nursing homes could have errors. They recommend that potential residents and families also check with State bureaus and other local sources, to gain a complete view of listed nursing homes.

CMS advises that consumers always check for monthly updates, for facilities are frequently subject to high turnover in staff, which can badly influence patient care.

The more troublesome nursing homes are designated “Special Focus Facilities”, a term that is displayed whenever these problematic nursing homes come up on the site.