The New York Times recently published a scathing report that documents how many nursing homes hide behind artificially inflated ratings and surveys. In its report, the Times looked at several nursing homes that had received high marks from Medicare and found that the actual quality of their care over an extended period did not line up with the rating they were given.
Medicare gives nursing homes a rating from one to five stars based on several factors including surveys and inspections of the facility, staffing levels, and quality statistics. These ratings are made publicly available and influence the public and professional perception of these facilities. It should be troubling, therefore, to find out that these ratings may not be as reliable as you may have been led to believe.
The Times report faulted thestar rating system as relying on incomplete and unreliable data. Much of the information that Medicare consults is self-reported by the nursing homes and is not later verified or investigated by Medicare.
The results of this report should come as no surprise. Nursing homes are often on their best behavior when they are under investigation or are subject to survey inspections. In many cases we have heard from family members who have observed facilities providing care that had never before been offered to a patient while a surveyor was present in the room, yet continuing to neglect their patients once the inspection was over. And these inspections are just one of three criteria used to determine a facilities star rating. When asked to self-report, it is no surprise that nursing homes will try to stretch the truth to improve their ratings. For many facilities, there is a great deal riding on earning a five-star rating, including additional funding from the corporate level.
The star rating system was initially conceived with the intent of aiding the consumer when choosing a nursing home. Despite its flaws, the ratings system carries a great deal of weight in the medical community and is often consulted by doctors and hospitals when referring patients to a nursing home. It is for these reasons that we find it troubling that the system can be unreliable. Making the decision to place a loved one into a nursing home is often a difficult one and it is tempting to rely on information from sources that would otherwise seem trustworthy.
Before signing your loved one into a nursing home, we strongly suggest visiting the facility and researching any past problems that may have occurred there in addition to looking at Medicare’s star rating system. If you suspect a nursing home is understaffed, overcrowded, or is providing substandard care to your loved one, you may be right. The attorneys at the Jehl Law Group, PLLC have years of experience recognizing the signs of potentially dangerous care. We are happy to provide a FREE consultation regarding your or your loved ones care. Please do not hesitate to call.