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When the CMS issued its new ratings in December, 2008, about 22 percent of the nation’s nearly 16,000 nursing homes received the federal government’s lowest rating under the new five-star rating system , while only 12 percent received the highest ranking possible.

The acting administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Kerry Weems, said the agency was merely taking existing data already on the agency’s Web site and facilitating its use for patients and families. He said it can be difficult for people to understand all the aspects of an inspection, but “[t]his should help consumers in narrowing their choices, but nothing should substitute for visiting a nursing home when making a decision”.

Under the new system, five stars means a nursing home ranks much above average, four stars indicates an above average ranking, three stars means average, two is below average and one is much below average. The rankings will be updated quarterly, and the CMS is already getting a lot of flack from the nursing home industry. Many facilities believe the system is just not easily applied under the current investigative process conducted by the states. The key argument in this is that each state has their own subjective process by which they review facility performance.

The system “is poorly planned, prematurely implemented and hamhandedly rolled out,” said Larry Minnix, president and chief executive officer of the American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging.

Countering this, however, was Alice H. Hedt, executive director of the National Citizens’ Coalition for Nursing Home Reform. She noted, “[f]rom a consumer viewpoint, it’s not stringent enough… It’s basically taking information already available on Medicare’s Nursing Home Compare Web site and pulling it into an easier system for consumers to use, and that is a good thing.”

Still, both consumer watch groups and the CMS believe that the system cannot be a substitute for personal inspection and investigation.

In rating the nursing homes, CMS used three year’s worth of inspections which were recorded on an annual survey designed to measure how well homes protect the health and safety of their residents.

Kooi Firm is a firm dedicated to the representation of victims of nursing home abuse and neglect, and never represent facilities or their insurers. We work with family members and their loved ones to ensure safety and quality of care. When those means are not obtained, we stand by victims and fight with compassion and conviction for those that fall victim.


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