Hospital groups and lawmakers hailed a federal agency's decision Wednesday to delay the release of its new star ratings until July.
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, bowing under industry and Congressional pressure, announced Wednesday that it would postpone the launch date, scheduled for today, until at least July.
In addition, CMS postponed the release of other Hospital Compare quality data until May 4.
The ratings, which will measure hospitals on a five-star scale, are based on 113 measures of inpatient and outpatient quality derived from the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare providers and Systems survey. Quality measures are grouped in seven categories, giving higher weight to mortality, safety of care, readmissions and patient experience than effectiveness of care, timeliness of care and efficient use of medical imaging.
The overall star rating is meant to give consumers an easy metric that they can use to shop for the best care.
But many industry watchers worried that the data doesn't provide an accurate picture of hospital quality care because it fails to consider patients' socio-demographic status. As a result, some of the nation's most prestigious hospitals that treat lower-income patients may unfairly receive lower star ratings.
"Healthcare consumers need reliable, factual information to make critical care decisions," Rick Pollack, president and CEO of the American Hospital Association, said in a statement. The delay, he said, was necessary so that hospitals and health systems can work with CMS to improve the rating methodology by taking socio-demographic factors into account.
The Federation of American Hospitals also praised the delay as it gives hospitals time to review the newer data and understand the impact of the star ratings
Hundreds of lawmakers on Monday also urged the federal agency to postpone the release of the data, stating in a letter that it may unfairly mask quality. "A number of the quality measures that underpin the ratings unfairly impact teaching hospitals that treat low socioeconomic status patients, more complex patients, and perform a greater number of complicated surgeries," said the letter, which was signed by 225 members of Congress.
Earlier this month, 60 senators also signed a letter urging for the delay due to what they said were flaws in the quality measures that lead to wide variations between CMS' quality ratings and other reports.