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Get Ready for Medicare's 5-Star Hospital Ratings

Cheryl Clark, for HealthLeaders Media, April 3, 2014

CMS intends to implement a five-star rating system on all of its web sites that display comparative quality information for providers. Stars are nice, but precision, in the form of detailed quality data, must remain public for quality to improve.

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.

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