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'Best nursing homes' rankings explore Five-Star's gray areas

October 7, 2009
by Kevin Kolus
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More than 15,500 American nursing homes have been ranked by U.S. News & World Report—the magazine that perennially declares which institutions are the crème de la crème—and it’s really nothing you in the industry haven’t read before. The magazine's searchable database of almost every nursing home in the United States is built from the information found in long-term care's most hotly debated controversy: the Five-Star Quality Rating System.

However, going above and beyond CMS’s simplified—and some argue, incomplete—system, U.S. News & World Report has broken down the ratings to give consumers a more detailed explanation of nursing home quality. From Avery Comarow, here’s a description on how the magazine stratified results:

“For a more precise indication of quality, we created tiers within each star rating based on the total number of stars in all three of the categories CMS uses as yardsticks: health inspections, nurse staffing, and individual quality measures. The topmost tier of five-star homes, for example, consists only of homes that got 15 stars across the three yardsticks, the highest number possible; they make up the Honor Roll. The next tier down is comprised of five-star homes with 14 stars in the three yardstick categories, and so on.”

The argument is all homes rated within a star category can’t be equal in quality, and Five-Star does a poor job of explaining to the average consumer just what the differences could be between two four-star homes, two three-star homes, etc. With the tiered approach, U.S. News & World Report is trying to help bring clarity to this young system. The question remains: Is the system worth breaking down like this, or should it be overhauled before consumers put any more stock in its findings? In the meantime, search the rankings database and see where your home stacks up.

Click here to visit U.S. News & World Report’s rankings database.

Click here to find out how U.S. News & World Report decided on its rankings.

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Kevin Kolus

Kevin Kolus

@longtermliving

www.ltlmagazine.com/blog/kevin-kolus

Kevin Kolus wrote for Long-Term Living when he was an editor. He left the brand in 2012...