CMS plans new ranking system for nursing homes

CMS has plans to introduce a new ranking system for nursing homes on its consumer website. Its new Nursing Home Compare site will introduce a five-star ranking system in December designed to make quality information easy to absorb for nonprofessionals. Through July, the agency will accept comments on the system from the public, consumer groups and nursing homes.

Meanwhile, CMS also is establishing a new requirement that all nursing homes must have full sprinkler systems in place, not just new facilities. The country's 16,000 nursing homes will need to have these systems in place by 2013 if they want to receive Medicare reimbursement. Until now, older facilities have been exempt from this requirement. Right now, about 15 percent of homes have partial sprinkler systems in place, and about 8.8 percent have no sprinklers or their status is not known. The agency expects it to cost about $850 million over the next five years to phase in full sprinklers for those that don't have them.

Another issue that could come up in the future is the arbitration clauses that are often part of admissions agreements at nursing homes. Critics say such agreements, which require that disputes be settled by arbitration rather than in court, are weighted heavily in favor of nursing home operators and do little to deter bad behavior.

To learn more about CMS's nursing home plans:
- read this Modern Healthcare piece (reg. req.)

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