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Nursing homes' ratings targeted

A bill that would require Kentucky nursing homes to display ratings they receive under the new federal Five-Star Rating System has been introduced in the General Assembly by Rep. Carl Rollins, D-Midway.

Rollins said he filed the bill to hold nursing homes accountable.

For the past two legislative sessions, Rollins said, he has unsuccessfully tried to get a bill passed that would require minimum staffing levels for nursing homes.

Staffing levels are one of the areas rated under the new federal system, he said.

Displaying the rating, Rollins said, "will encourage the nursing homes that don't have a three-star rating or above to work harder."

Nursing homes are rated on the quality of care they give residents in the new system announced in December by the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Under the bill, all nursing homes would be required to post their rating in the most prominent place in the facility, usually near the main entrance.

The bill also calls for the nursing home to explain the system in the posting: If a nursing home gets five stars, it is providing care "much above average." One star means "much below average."

When the new system was announced, 23 percent of the 287 nursing homes in Kentucky received one star, while 10 percent had five stars.

Kentucky could be the first state in the nation to have the law, although California is considering similar action, said Bernie Vonderheide, president of Kentuckians for Nursing Home Reform, an advocacy organization.

"Think of this proposed law like restaurants that must post their public health rating in a place where all their customers can see it," Vonderheide said Monday.

However, Tim Veno, president and CEO of the Kentucky Association of Homes and Services for the Aging, said the rating system "does not accurately depict the true quality in Kentucky's nursing homes. We truly believe it to be misleading."

Veno said he is concerned that displaying the rating could continue to propagate misleading information about a particular nursing home.

He also said he hopes that Kentucky does not pass a law requiring the display until the federal government reviews and refines the rating process.

Every nursing home receiving Medicare and/or Medicaid funding is rated in the new system. Consumers can access the ratings online at www.medicare.gov/nhcompare.

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