CMS releases hospital star ratings amid industry criticism

Despite the push back from industry leaders and lawmakers who urged for a year's delay of the information, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services finally released its star ratings for hospital quality earlier today.

RELATED: CMS star ratings: Response plan for high- and low-ranking hospitals

As revealed in the overview CMS released last week, the latest round of ratings on the federal government’s Hospital Compare site gives an edge to smaller hospitals and those with lower-risk patient populations, with disproportionate share hospitals performing slightly worse on average.

Three out of a possible 5 stars was the most common rating, earned by 1,770 hospitals, or about 39 percent.

The ratings summarize the findings from 64 existing quality measures already reported on the Hospital Compare website and summarize them into a unified rating of one to five stars. The ratings include measures for care provided when treated for heart attacks and pneumonia, as well as hospital-acquired infections.

"Today, we are updating the star ratings on the Hospital Compare website to help millions of patients and their families learn about the quality of hospitals, compare facilities in their area side-by-side, and ask important questions about care quality when visiting a hospital or other healthcare provider, wrote Kate Goodrich, M.D., director of Center for Clinical Standards and Quality, on the CMS blog. 

But the release of the data was met with criticism from hospital advocacy groups, who have long argued that the methodology used by the agency is unfairly weighted against hospitals that serve poor patients and those with complex conditions.

“Through these star ratings, CMS has implied that hospitals have been measured on an equal basis and that the comparisons are fair, an assumption that is unfortunately not true,” Association of American Medical Colleges President and CEO Darrell G. Kirch, M.D., said in a statement to press.

“Teaching hospitals perform a wide array of complicated and common procedures, pioneer new treatments, and care for broader socio-demographic patient populations that may not have access to regular care.” Despite this, he noted, the CMS ratings compare them directly to hospitals with more resources and lower-risk patient populations.

Federation of American Hospitals President and CEO echoed this criticism, noting also that Congress has joined other major hospital groups in urging CMS to delay the release. 

The American Hospital Association was similarly critical, with AHA President and CEO Rick Pollack calling the ratings “not ready for prime time” and warning the data in its current form will confuse patients and families and add to the existing maze of contradictory hospital quality ratings.

- read the CMS announcement
- here's the blog post