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President Obama Announces Changes to Medicare Star Rating System in Effort to Improve Nursing Home Care

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Earlier this month, the White House announced executive actions aimed at improving the quality of care at nursing home facilities across the country. Known as the Improving Medicare Post Acute Care Transformation Act of 2014 or IMPACT Act, the actions seek to improve care by strengthening the Five Star Quality Rating System used by Medicare.

The star rating system, which families, doctors, and patients rely on to choose nursing homes, has had its share of scrutiny as of late. A recent report from the New York Times assailed the system as unreliable and inconsistent, claiming that it relied on data submitted directly by the nursing homes with Medicare doing little to confirm that information or ensure that nursing homes or their corporate owners were not enhancing their rating by boosting their reported information.

Given the importance of these ratings and the concerns about their accuracy, it was reassuring to hear that the federal government is taking action to ensure better information is available to families when critical decisions need to be made.

The action the President’s order will allow is a change in how staffing data is reported. Instead of relying mostly on self-reported statistics, Medicare will now use payroll information to more accurately gauge the level of staffing available at a facility. This is critical in determining whether a nursing home has enough staff to properly care for its residents.

Short staffing is one of the principal causes of elder neglect and abuse at nursing homes. Without proper staffing, a resident can suffer from bedsores, malnutrition or dehydration because of insufficient attention to care. By making greater efforts corroborate staffing information, the star ratings system could become a stronger indicator of which facilities are more likely to provide safe, quality care for nursing home residents.

Medicare will also ensure that states inspect facilities on a regular basis and make the results of those inspections available to the public on a consumer-friendly website. This will give families and doctors more information beyond the star-rating system to determine what nursing homes are safe and right for their loved ones or patients.

While we hope to see improvement in the star rating system and the quality of care in nursing homes overall, there are still facilities out there who are not adequately staffed to care for the number of residents they have. The new measures enacted by the executive order do not go into effect until January 2015. If you or a loved one in a nursing home have experienced weight loss, dehydration, pressure sores, or other injuries or illnesses, it may be because the facility is not adequately staffed and is not living up to its duty to care for its residents. Contact an attorney at the Jehl Law Group, PLLC immediately! Our attorneys can help get you or your loved one the justice they deserve.