CMS Rates Nursing Homes

The Wall Street Journal reports that "the federal government is stepping up efforts to improve the quality of nursing-home care and now has an online tool consumers can use in evaluating facilities. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, or CMS, will begin a pilot program this summer to see if cash incentives to nursing homes can improve the care they provide, especially in areas such as nurse staffing and preventable hospitalizations."

In a separate effort, CMS started the Nursing Home Compare system in December to rank 16,000 nursing facilities based on government inspection results, staffing data and quality measures. The Wall Street Journal reports that "about three million Americans need nursing-home care at some point each year, and the care is often costly. Unlike with most other health-care needs, many elderly and disabled Americans have to pay for nursing homes themselves, either because they earn too much to qualify for Medicaid or they don't qualify for Medicare's coverage." The Journal pointed out that "many seniors are surprised by Medicare's limited coverage for nursing-home care: up to 100 days after a hospitalization of three days or more," noting that "the beneficiary pays nothing during the first 20 days at a nursing home, $133.50 a day after that and the full cost after 100 days." Consumer groups warn people to research facilities because care can vary widely (Zhang, 6/1).

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