I thought I was on to a big hush-hush secret. On Monday I began making inquiries to my sources in Washington. I'd heard that Medicare was making plans to rank hospitals using a five-star system. Five stars. Wow.
A public affairs official with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services called it a "rumor" and said no such change was planned, at least not "in the near future." I was told that my sources were confused.
But after nearly 30 e-mails between CMS and me over the last three days, I've finally received confirmation: Medicare does intend to apply its Five-Star Rating System to some 4,000 Medicare-eligible acute care facilities in a Hospital Compare update, and "maybe" as early as this December.
Maybe to you and me that's not the "near future," but in a hospital leader's world, it's almost tomorrow.
Just like CMS gives stars to nursing homes, Medicare health plans with Part B coverage, Medicare Advantage plans, physician group practices and accountable care organizations on Physician Compareto mark their comparative performance on a variety of quality measures, hospitals too will be scored with one to five little green stars.