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Don’t be misled by “five-star” nursing home ratings

Written by Diane Archer
A new investigative report by The New York Times reveals that Medicare star-ratings of nursing homes do not ensure quality.  Nursing home ratings likely do not mean what you think they do. And, for now, there’s no TripAdvisor or Consumer Reports to give you the full scoop.

Much of the information you can find on MedicareCompare about nursing homes is based on self-reported data, and the star-ratings Medicare confers based on this data is therefore misleading.

Independent assessors are supposed to conduct health inspections each year.  So those results should be reliable.  But, staff levels and quality data are self-reported.

While reliable information that compares the 15,000 nursing homes in America is not yet available, it’s important to keep in mind that quality differs significantly and matters.

Informed Patient Institute offers the best information on nursing homes and other providers in each state.  It is likely too generous in giving MedicareCompare a B grade, without listing all its shortcomings.  But, where they exist, it tells you about better tools available to you and is worth checking out.

In short, do your own homework before choosing a nursing home for someone you love.  Talk to people in your community.  Visit the nursing homes a few times before choosing one.  Find out about consumer complaints and whether there have been fines imposed on the nursing home by state agencies.

Of course, it’s important to do your homework before seeking any kind of care:

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