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Analysis

CMS Updates Hospital Star Ratings After Delay, Signals Plans for Change

By Steven Porter  
   February 28, 2019

Hospitals have long complained that the ratings fail to convey an accurate picture of care quality.

Hospital star ratings were updated publicly Thursday for the first time since 2017, despite long-running accusations that the government's methodology presents a distorted picture of care quality.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services had repeatedly delayed the release of the updated ratings, citing "stakeholder concerns." Hospitals had complained that preliminary data for the July 2018 release showed inexplicably dramatic shifts in ratings that added to concerns over their reliability.

In announcing the update to the Hospital Compare and Medicare data websites Thursday, CMS Administrator Seema Verma both defended the star ratings and signaled that changes are in the works.

"These decision-making tools offer greater transparency on hospital performance for a wide variety of users—patients, caregivers, families, and the broader healthcare industry," Verma said. "We constantly aim to improve these resources with feedback from stakeholders, and we are confident this latest update of Hospital Compare data further strengthens this data."

The announcement included a list of potential changes to the hospital star ratings and asked the public to comment on the ideas. The changes being considered include a plan to compare hospitals to their similarly situated peers. Comments are due March 29.

Bruce Siegel, MD, MPH, president and CEO of America's Essential Hospitals, said it's "unfortunate" that CMS decided to go ahead and release the data while proposing changes that Siegel says recognize flaws in the methodology.

"Those flaws contribute to ratings that mislead consumers and disadvantage hospitals that care for vulnerable patients, rather than reflect true hospital performance and improvement," Siegel said in a statement. "The ratings also fail to account for social risk factors beyond a hospital’s control and that affect performance."

The updated ratings are available on the Hospital Compare website.

Steven Porter is an associate content manager and Strategy editor for HealthLeaders, a Simplify Compliance brand.


KEY TAKEAWAYS

The release of the updated ratings had been delayed repeatedly amid criticism from hospitals.

The CMS announcement includes ideas on how to improve the star ratings to address hospital concerns.


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