Senators Push CMS to Delay Hospital Star Ratings Release

Sixty senators say the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services should delay the release of overall hospital quality star ratings because they do not account for hospitals that treat patients from lower socioeconomic groups or multiple complex chronic conditions.

The senators note in a letter that the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission, which advises Congress on issues related to Medicare, and other researchers have said the ratings system does not consider that the ratings system does not appropriately consider socioeconomic status and patient complexity. They add that they support the implementation of the ratings overall, but argue more work should be done to consider those factors.

“We are concerned that the Star Rating system may be misleading to consumers due to flaws in the measures that underpin the ratings,” the lawmakers write. “Many prominent hospitals that are in the top echelon of other quality rating reports, and handle the most complex procedures and patients, may receive 1 or 2 stars (out of a possible 5), indicating that they have the poorest quality in comparison to all other hospitals.”

Hospitals have told lawmakers that they need more information from CMS about the methodology used to determine the star ratings, the letter says. The senators, led by Sens. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Bob Casey (D-Pa.), say that is another reason that more time is needed before the ratings are released.

“It is clear that additional time is necessary for hospitals and stakeholders to thoroughly review the data and understand the impact of the current methodology to ensure the validity and accuracy of the information before it is publicly released,” they write.

Reps. Jim Renacci (R-Ohio) and Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.) are collecting signatures on a similar letter from House members this week, according to a release.