CMS delays hospital star ratings update

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Overall star ratings on the CMS Hospital Compare website will not be updated in October as previously scheduled, according to the American Hospital Association (AHA).

The AHA reported CMS had “decided not to proceed with the October update to continue its examination of potential changes to the Star Rating methodology based on public feedback.” It’s the second delay this year, as the October update had been originally scheduled for July. They had also been delayed under the previous administration just a day before their first scheduled release in April 2016.

When the ratings were posted in July 2016, they were heavily criticized by hospital groups and the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC) for “flawed methodology” and not accounting for socioeconomic factors in a hospital’s patient population. The AHA has continued to ask CMS, at a minimum, to suspend the star ratings until the “methodology is improved” and consider scrapping the overall rating for ratings separated by topic areas like patient safety, patient experience and cardiac care.

“The measures included in the ratings were never intended to create a single, representative score of hospital quality,” wrote Ashley Thompson, AHA’s senior vice president for public policy, in a Sept. 25 letter to CMS chief medical officer Kate Goodrich, MD. “Furthermore, the ratings often do not reflect the aspects of care most relevant to a particular patient’s needs.”

While loathed by hospitals, the star ratings do align with consumers’ demands for more transparency on quality and costs of their care. 53 percent of respondents in a 2016 Kaiser Family Foundation poll considered it a top priority to make more quality information publicly available.

CMS didn’t immediately respond to HealthExec’s request for comment on the delay. While the new administration at CMS has placed a priority on ways to reduce administrative burden for providers, it hasn’t backed away from similar star ratings. Last month, it opened its new Hospice Compare website allowing patients to compare providers based on seven measures of hospice and palliative care.