Good news for seniors and their families staying at or visiting California nursing homes, publicly posted ratings for each facility is now required. The action was mandated by a state law that was passed in 2009. The federal ratings give facilities one to five stars depending on quality of care, similar to how restaurants display letter grades evaluating health and safety compliance.
“The rating system is one that is used by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services,” notes Alan Weinstock, an insurance broker at MedicareSupplementPlans.com. “California nursing homes that get a five star rating are ‘much beyond average,’ while a one-star rating means they are ‘much below average.’”
Background on California Medicare Ratings for Nursing Homes
California currently houses over 1,200 federally rated nursing homes. That is more than any other state. Current ratings show that nearly 16% of these facilities received that lowest rating of one star, while approximately 15% received five stars, the highest rating available.
The intent is to ensure that patients and their families are aware of the evaluations. Each facility must post their rating along with information explaining the rating system and how patients and their families can obtain information about the nursing home’s state licensing record from the Department of Public Health’s website. Failure to follow the law could result in a range of potential fines.
However, the hope is that the rating system will provide incentives as well. Facilities that garner and maintain high-quality standards of care and compliance resulting in a five-star rating, not only provide vital information to families, but win accolades and rewards for themselves.
Mixed Reaction from Support Groups and Nursing Homes
Whether or not the use of a rating system is a good idea depends on who you ask. While there are those who feel it’s a good place to start, most health care advocates advise that Medicare beneficiaries, nursing home patients and family members shouldn’t read too much into the system. Don’t assume that a five-star nursing home is the best place. Instead check out a facility thoroughly and conduct research before making a decision.
In addition, there are problems with the two-year-old ratings. They don’t include information on state violations and they rely on staffing data reported by nursing homes instead of being collected by independent observers.
Rating signs are to be posted in a visitor area of a facility, an employee break area and a dining room or other group area used by residents.
In the meantime, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services have a plan to redesign the quality measures in the works. That means that nursing homes might not see an updated rating until some time in 2012. Unfortunately nursing facilities that currently sport a low rating could be living with the outdated rating for a while. That along with the fact that the ratings are based on a bell curve, means a certain percentage of facilities will always be on the very bottom.
Medigap insurance can give what the original Medicare Supplement cannot and this is a very effective advantage of the Medigap insurance California.
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