Home Health Agencies Get Ratings

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The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services just introduced a five-star rating system for home health agencies on its Medicare.gov website.

The ratings, based on patient surveys, were rolled out on the heels of recent upgrades to the government’s nursing home ratings, which had been criticized for giving high ratings to some facilities with problems.

Consumers can search, by area code, for home health agencies, or they can look up specific agencies that they’ve heard about or seen in the neighborhood.  (Some agencies listed on the website are unrated.)

Separately, Kaiser Health News also culled the government ratings to compile its own list of the lowest- and highest-ranked agencies for many states.   But according to Medicare.gov, most agencies “fall ‘in the middle’ with 3 or 3½ stars.”

The star ratings are a sound concept and can help older people or their family feel more comfortable about their choices. The ratings are based on nine measures of home care quality, from whether the aide educates the patient or his or her caregivers about prescription drug regimens to whether patients who have difficulty walking, getting in and out of bed, or bathing make progress.

Finding the star ratings is tricky, so follow these steps:

  • Click here and then click “Find home health services,” which appears on the left side of Medicare.gov’s web page.
  • Enter the zip code where a home health agency is needed.
  • Unfortunately, star ratings are available for only three agencies at one time, so pick three and click “Add to Compare” under each agency’s name.
  • Once three are selected, click “Compare Now.”
  • The “Quality of Patient Pare” tab displays the star ratings of the three agencies selected.
  • To look up three more, click “Home Health Compare Home” and repeat the process.