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Interpreting Medicare's Nursing Home Rating System


A new five-star rating system of nursing homes by Medicare was released December 18, 2008. The new system rates the 15, 800 nursing homes that participate in Medicare or Medicaid. These newest ratings were designed to help consumers, making it easier to assess information already posted on the website.

The Nursing Home Compare section of Medicare.gov is the area of the website where information on quality measures, survey results, and basic information about nursing homes can be found. The ratings are based on an algorithm that calculates a composite view of the nursing home. It is based on three measures: health inspection results, nurse staffing data, and quality measures. The quality measures include such things as whether residents have gotten their flu shots, are losing weight, have bed sores, etc.

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Medicare.gov states that the goal of the nursing home rating system is to try to provide unbiased information to aid the general public in decision making. It is also felt that the public reporting will encourage the facilities to advance the quality of care they provide, resulting in better health-care outcomes for all.

Nursing home providers feel that the ratings are not necessarily fair to the consumers. They encourage consumers to visit different nursing homes before making a final decision.

When you do need to make a decision regarding a nursing home, use all resources for information. Visit the Medicare.gov website. Talk to your health-care professionals. Talk to your friends and families. Go for an on-site visit of the different nursing homes in your area. Then sit down with your family and consider it all.