Lifewatch: Nursing home rating system

Reported by Claire Hosmann - bio|email
Posted by Debra Worley - email

(WECT) - Putting a loved one in a nursing home can be a difficult decision to make, but now California is using a star-based rating system to help families make a more informed decision.

Nursing homes that receive medicare or medicaid are rated on a number of factors including health inspections, staffing, and quality of care.

The state assembly is considering a bill that would require California nursing homes to post their star ratings, just like restaurants post letter grades from health inspectors.

"By having full disclosure before you place a loved one in a facility, gives you that information, that confidence that they'll get the treatment that they'll deserve," said Michael Antonovich with the L.A. County Board of Supervisors.

Critics, mostly from the nursing home industry, argue that choosing a nursing home isn't like deciding on a restaurant, and that it's a lot more complicated.

"The concerns that I've always had about the 5 star rating is that it's not like buying a hamburger at a restaurant," said Michael Torgan, a nursing home VP.  "This is a complex decision and the 5 star program tries to simplify that process."

Opponents insist the rating system is flawed because it operates on a bell curve - awarding the point system used only gives 5 stars to the top 10% of facilities, and automatically giving 1 star to the bottom 20%.

Critics also say the information used to grade the homes is out of date and comes from nursing home staff which makes it unreliable.

Critics believe the data would be more accurate if opinions of patients and their families would be considered.

People on both sides of the debate agree the rating system shouldn't replace visiting a home and seeing what works best for the patient and family.

The bill requiring California nursing homes to post the ratings will get its first test Tuesday when it goes before a committee in the state assembly.