New federal rating system for nursing homes could show drop in scores

On February 20th, the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) launched a new rating system for nursing homes which is based on factors that go beyond self-reported data, and will reflect auditing of self reports. Staffing levels must be reported quartely, and will be cross-matched against payroll records to verify accuracy. The use of antipsychotic medications will now be a factor in the evaluation, and the standards to be met to achieve the top 5-star rating have been improved.  The consumer website is Medicare.gov NursingHomeCompare. Since the methodology has changed, you may not be able to accurately compare 2014 with 2015 when it comes to the issues that have changed. Scores may drop because of the new requirements. In NJ, roughly 25% of the nursing homes have achieved a 5 star rating in recent years.

There are 373 nursing homes in New Jersey.  They are inspected by both the NJ Department of Health and the federal government through CMS. New Jersey inspects most of them every year. Explanations about the state’s inspection program can be found at  the Department of Health Facilities Licensing and Evaluation website.

Complaints concerning nursing homes may be filed with the Department of Health particularly on level of service, violations of specific regulations,  or structural issues. Complaints concerning alleged infringement of residents’ rights can be filed with the NJ Ombudsman for the Institutionalized Elderly.

In selecting a nursing home, you will always want to visit the premises on several occasions (different days of the week including weekends, and days as well as evening), along with looking at data available through governmental websites. After all you’d be selecting a new home for yourself or your loved one.

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