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GAO: Nursing Home Ratings Need to Be More Consumer-Friendly

A new report from the General Accountability Office finds room for improvement in a government website meant to help consumers choose among nursing homes. The report stemmed from a request by Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey and other lawmakers in the wake of reporting by the New York Times that was critical of the Nursing Home Compare web tool and its Five-Star Rating System. The Times concluded that the rating system, which includes information on more than 15,000 nursing homes, relied too heavily on self-reported data from the facilities and did not include potentially valuable information about state enforcement actions, allowing poorly performing institutions to receive high ratings. After that Times report, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which operates the rating system, strengthened reporting on nursing home staffing. It raised the bar on quality measures earlier this year, making it more difficult for a nursing home to achieve a five-star rating. Casey, Sen. Ron Wyden (D., Ore.), and Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D., Md.) asked the GAO to evaluate the site in August. Its 42-page report did not highlight major problems with the accuracy of information on the site, though it did say that the overall ratings most accurately reflected how nursing homes performed during inspections at the extremes: one- and five-star ratings. GAO offered recommendations that would make the site more useful for consumers and easier to understand. The site is used by an average of 914,000 people per year.

Source/more: Philadelphia Inquirer



David Wingate is an elder law attorney at the Elder Law Office of David Wingate, LLC. The elder law office services clients with powers of attorneys, living wills, Wills, Trusts, Medicaid and asset protection. The Elder Law office has locations in Frederick and Montgomery Counties, Maryland.

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