A New York Times investigation, based on analysis of Medicare Nursing Home data, found that the rating program provided a badly distorted view of the quality of care at U.S nursing homes, writes Arkansas Democrat Gazette. More than 130,000 nursing-home residents have died of covid-19, and the Times’ analysis found that people at five-star facilities were roughly as likely to die of the disease as those at one-star homes.
The ratings program, run by the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, relies on a mix of self-reported data from more than 15,000 nursing homes and on-site examinations by state health inspectors. Nursing homes receive scores based on how they fare in those inspections; how much time nurses spend with residents; and the quality of care that residents receive. Those three grades are then combined into an overarching star rating for each nursing home. To evaluate the ratings’ reliability, the Times built a database to analyze millions of payroll records to determine how much hands-on care nursing homes provide residents, combed through 373,000 reports by state inspectors and examined financial statements submitted to the government by more than 10,000 nursing homes.
The Times obtained access to portions of the ratings data that aren’t publicly available from academics who had research agreements with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. In its investigation, the Times found facilities had submitted incorrect information to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services on safety and cleanliness, as well as inflated staffing levels.