Medicare to Assign Star Ratings to Hospitals

Posted on: September 4th, 2014 by Mark R. Friedman

Medicare will soon begin assigning hospitals star ratings, similar to nursing homes.

Medicare maintains a database with data for most hospitals in the United States, similar to its nursing home compare database. But unlike nursing homes, Medicare does not assign a star rating to hospitals. That is set to change later this year.

Last week, the New York Times published several pieces highly critical of Medicare’s star rating system for nursing homes. The Times criticized the ratings for being too reliant on data submitted by the nursing homes themselves, and for ignoring important information collected by the states, and concluded that the star ratings could mislead consumers. The Times proffers the example of a nursing home in California that was given the highest rating despite numerous problems.

One has to wonder whether the hospital ratings will be plagued by similar problems. Medicare’s hospital database provides more robust information than its nursing home database, probably because hospitals are more closely monitored than nursing homes.

Now, the hospital database provides raw data from which consumers can draw their own conclusions. With star ratings, a conclusion is drawn for consumers. I’m concerned that given the problems with the nursing home ratings, hospital ratings might make things less clear for consumers, not more clear.

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