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Southern California legislators back posting nursing home ratings

February 3, 2009 |  2:59 pm

State legislators from the Southern California are championing a proposal by Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael Antonovich to require nursing homes statewide to prominently post the ratings they receive under a federal five-star system, similar to the grades displayed by restaurants.

Today, State Reps. Mike Feuer (D-Los Angeles) and Cameron Smyth (R-Santa Clarita) introduced Assembly Bill 215 to require nursing homes that receive federal money to post the ratings they receive under the Center for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) star rating system.

“Posting nursing home grades is crucial to ensuring our loved ones receive the high quality of care they deserve,” Feuer said in a statement released this morning. “This legislation will give families valuable information and provide an additional incentive to facilities to achieve the highest standards.”

The county's five supervisors unanimously voted last month to petition Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and state health department officials to require nursing homes that receive Medicare and Medi-Cal to display their current star rating on site and include their rating in admissions agreements for new patients.

Supervisors also voted to link the county website to the federal rating site, Nursing Home Compare.

If California requires the ratings be posted at facilities, it might be the first in the nation, according to a spokeswoman for the American Health Care Assn. in Washington, D.C., who said her group was unaware of any other states that had done so.

The change would affect about 400 nursing homes in Los Angeles County serving about 30,000 people.

Spokesmen for the governor and state health department said they are considering the supervisors' proposal, which would have to be sanctioned by Sacramento because nursing homes are licensed and regulated by the state.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services began issuing the star ratings Dec. 18 after patients and advocacy groups complained that nursing home information on the federal agency's website was difficult to understand and compare. Some advocacy groups still say the ratings alone are not enough to judge a nursing home, especially because they do not take into account state health department citations, but they have called such legislation a good first step.

Federal inspectors rate nursing homes using three years' worth of data drawn from state inspections and reports provided by the nursing homes.

Homes are scored on staffing and 10 quality measures, including how well a home responds to residents' declining mobility, high-risk bedsores and pain. Nursing homes receive star ratings in three areas -- health inspections, staffing and quality of care -- plus an overall rating.

“It is our responsibility to help protect our seniors, who are among the most vulnerable in our society and help families make informed decisions about where to place their loved ones when they need residential care before they make this vital decision,” Antonovich said today. “Much like Los Angeles County’s restaurant grading system, we are informing families, and by informing families we are protecting them and their loved ones.”

-- Molly Hennessy-Fiske