President Obama recently signed into law the Improving Medicare Post-Acute Care Transformation Act (IMPACT), which means that soon when trying to locate a nursing home for yourself or a loved one, CMS' rating will actually reflect the quality of the facility. At the present time, Medicare relies on self-reported and unverified information from nursing homes as well as its own citation data to rank facilities. Thus, comparing nursing homes ranked by Medicare on its website primarily depends on the accuracy and completeness of the information provided by the facilities. These self-reporting practices have been often criticized leading experts to question CMS' rating system as a true indication of the quality of care provided by the nursing home facilities.
Medicare's five-star rating system came under fire after an August 2014 report was released by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General. The report found that in a random sampling of 245 nursing homes, only fifty-three percent (53%) of allegations of abuse or neglect were reported as federally required. These findings clearly indicate the unreliability of nursing home facilities' self-reported data upon which the five-star rating system is based.
Changes in the rating system are scheduled to begin in January and will include adding measurable data. For example, nursing homes will be rated on the percentage of residents re-admitted to a hospital and the percentage receiving antipsychotic drugs. CMS will also start gathering data regarding staffing numbers and turnover rates directly from payroll records rather than relying on a facility's self-reported numbers. Cheryl Phillips, M.D., LeadingAge's senior vice president of public policy told Long-Term Living Magazine that "[t]he inclusion of verified staffing information based on payroll data is especially important, as staffing levels are often the best proxy [indicator] for quality."