CMS star ratings sneak peek: System favors smaller hospitals with lower-risk patients

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services isn't quite ready to release its star ratings for hospital quality, but a sneak peak at what the agency has announced reveals only about 2 percent of the nation's hospitals will receive the maximum five-star rating.

The partial release of information provides the breakdown of the number of hospitals that earned stars but didn't include the names of the hospitals.

The latest data shows that only 102 of the nation's 4,600 hospitals will receive five stars. But 934 hospitals, or about 1 out of 5, will achieve a four-star rating.

Nearly 39 percent of the hospitals (1,770) will receive a three-star rating. Approximately 16 percent or 723 hospitals will receive two stars. And CMS reveals that 133 hospitals or nearly 3 percent will earn only one star.

CMS won't rate 937 hospitals due to factors such as failure to report or insufficient available data.

Disproportionate share hospitals (DSH) received worse ratings on average than non-DSH payment-eligible hospitals, with an average of 2.92 versus 3.47.

Critics of CMS’ methodology for star ratings have long complained that the ratings fail to incorporate sociodemographic data, penalizing DSHs and other providers for factors beyond their control. Critical access hospitals (CAHs), however, had a higher average rating than non-CAHs, with an average of 3.31 compared to 2.99 for their non-CAH counterparts.

The American Hospital Association, among the current methodology’s most vocal critics, said in a statement that the new data still has its problems. ““The data continues to raise questions and concerns, as it may unfairly penalize teaching hospitals and those serving the poor,” said Ashley Thompson, the AHA’s senior vice president for public policy, analysis and development. “We urge CMS to work with the hospital field to ensure its methodology is fair and reliable, so that patients will have access to useful information."

- here’s the CMS announcement
- read the AHA statement