CMS star ratings: Few of healthcare's big guns get top score

Five stars aren't easy to come by. Indeed, some of the nation's high-profile providers came up short in yesterday's release of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services' long-delayed star ratings for hospital quality.

Hardly any of the 102 hospitals that received the maximum five-star rating are household names nationwide, according to an analysis by Kaiser Health News. Rochester, Minnesota’s Mayo Clinic and Houston’s Memorial Hermann Hospital System are among the select few.

Many of the 5-star hospitals are located in regions and cities less known for care quality; Lincoln, Nebraska, and La Jolla, California, both overtook New York City and Boston for total number of five-star providers, according to the article.

When it came to four-star ratings, the industry’s heavy hitters fared slightly better, KHN reports; major hospitals earning four stars included California’s Stanford Health Care, Boston’s Massachusetts General Hospital, Philadelphia’s Penn Presbyterian Medical Center, Manhattan’s New York-Presbyterian Hospital and NYU Langone Medical Center, and the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio.

More troubling is KHN's reveal that many major hospitals and systems received the below-average two-star rating, such as Charlottesville’s University of Virginia Medical Center, the District of Columbia’s MedStar Washington Hospital Center and Boston’s Tufts Medical Center. Also earning two stars was Danville, Pennsylvania’s Geisinger Medical Center, often cited as a success story for hospitals seeking to do a lot with a little due to its progress on care coordination despite its rural location.

These ratings are likely to fuel more criticism of the ratings system from industry groups such as the American Hospital Association and the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), which have said the ratings paint an inaccurate picture of the state of hospitals.

"Hospitals cannot be rated like movies,” AAMC President Darrell Kirch, M.D., said in a statement issued to the publication. "We are extremely concerned about the potential consequences for patients that could result from portraying an overly simplistic picture of hospital quality with a star-rating system that combines many complex factors and ignores the socio-demographic factors that have a real impact on health."

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