LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – In the same fashion that restaurants display letter grades, Los Angeles County supervisors have asked state officials to compel California nursing homes to prominently post new federal star ratings. However, patient advocates and nursing home officials oppose the five-star ratings system that went into effect last month, arguing that the system overlooks significant violations and sometimes penalizes well-run nursing homes. California has the most federally rated nursing homes of any state with 1,254. Of California’s federally rated nursing homes, 272 facilities received the system’s lowest rating of one star and 148 facilities received the systems best rating of five stars. Los Angeles County supervisors have also asked the state department to require nursing homes to provide information about the ratings system in any admissions agreements for new patients.
Beginning in December 18, 2008, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services began issuing the star ratings after patients and advocacy groups complained that nursing home information on the federal agency’s website was difficult to understand and compare. Nursing homes are rated by federal inspectors using three years’ worth of data drawn from state inspections and reports provided by the nursing homes. Once a nursing home is rated, it then receives a star rating in three areas: Health inspections, staffing and quality of care, and an overall rating.
However, nursing home officials oppose the ratings system because they argue that the ratings rely too heavily on outdated information and can leave false impressions. For example, Country Villa Health Services, which took over some troubled nursing homes after Pacific Care filed for bankruptcy in 2007, was penalized for inspections that predated their ownership. Instead, nursing home officials suggest that federal officials include more recent patient and staff satisfaction surveys so ratings can better reflect current data.
Patient advocates also raised objections, suggesting that the ratings system may not accurately reflect the true quality of a nursing home. Nursing home officials often know when federal inspectors are coming, therefore, patient advocates argue that facilities can significantly improve the quality of a facility for only the duration of an inspection. Patient advocates also criticize the ratings system for not factoring in state citations. This means that when state inspectors find violations, the facility’s federal rating does not change. Federal officials chose not to include state citations because citation criteria varies from state to state.
Many nursing home residents are living out their remaining years in such facilities and deserve to be treated with the utmost care, dignity, and respect. For those with family members in nursing homes, there is no better indicator of a resident’s quality of life than from first hand observation. To ensure their well being, it is important to regularly visit and advocate on their behalf. If you notice that a loved one is not being treated with the care, dignity, or respect that they are entitled to by law, it is important to retain the legal services of an attorney who is knowledgeable and experienced in the area of elder abuse and neglect. The attorneys at Berman & Riedel, LLP, have also obtained some of the most successful and largest reported settlements in this specific area of the law.
At Berman & Riedel, LLP, we can offer the experience and skill necessary to provide you or your loved one with sound advice on how to protect you or your loved one’s legal rights. Contact an elder abuse and neglect attorney at Berman & Riedel, LLP, to discuss your legal options.