Lawsuit Casts Doubt on Government’s Nursing Home Ratings

Nurse pushing a wheelchair
Photo by Minerva Studio / Shutterstock.com

A lawsuit filed against the largest chain of senior living facilities in the U.S. raises new questions about the reliability of the federal government’s star ratings for long-term care facilities.

California prosecutors have sued Brookdale Senior Living, accusing the company of manipulating the rating system. The lawsuit says Brookdale submitted false information to the Medicare system’s rating program.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) oversees the rating system, which assigns one to five stars to nursing homes across the nation.

The New York Times reports that the ratings have gained enormous influence among customers and that getting a good rating can “mean the difference between a nursing home’s making or losing money.”

However, the system itself relies on data nursing homes submit that is largely unaudited. Such data includes:

  • How much time nurses spend with residents
  • In-person state health inspector examinations

The lawsuit itself comes after a Times investigation that found many nursing homes submit false information to the government. The newspaper says the widespread “sleight-of-hand maneuvering left the industry vulnerable when the coronavirus pandemic hit.”

How to find a good nursing home

So, if you can’t trust the CMS star rating system, how can you find the best nursing home for yourself or a loved one?

It’s tough to beat the testimony of residents themselves. J.D. Power’s latest annual U.S. Senior Living Satisfaction Study found that three providers earn especially high marks from residents and their families. For more, check out “Residents Love These 3 Senior Living Facilities.”

Looking for a second opinion? U.S. News & World Report has been ranking nursing homes since 2009. The publication says that it rates nursing homes in two different areas: short-term rehabilitation and long-term care.

U.S. News says its ratings are focused on staffing, outcomes, resident complaints and processes of care. It also notes that it “does not incorporate any CMS-issued, domain-specific ratings, or the overall rating from the CMS five-star quality rating system.”

Finally, check out two other governmental resources that can help you find the right nursing home facility:

  • The National Institute on Aging offers a guide, “How to Choose a Nursing Home.
  • CMS offers other resources, including a checklist of things to ask and look for when visiting a nursing home, a guide to choosing a nursing home or other long-term support service, and a list of nursing homes with a history of poor care.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Read Next
33 Home Upgrades That Cost Less Than $100
33 Home Upgrades That Cost Less Than $100

A little money goes a long way with these imaginative projects. You can do most of them yourself.

7 Social Security Blunders That Can Ruin Your Retirement
7 Social Security Blunders That Can Ruin Your Retirement

Making even one of these mistakes can sap your retirement income.

19 Purchases That Buyers Almost Always Regret
19 Purchases That Buyers Almost Always Regret

Think twice before buying these things.

5 Home Improvements That Help You ‘Age in Place’
5 Home Improvements That Help You ‘Age in Place’

These safety-conscious home upgrades can help retirees stay in their home.

7 Kitchen Gadgets That Make Healthy Cooking a Breeze
7 Kitchen Gadgets That Make Healthy Cooking a Breeze

These small appliances and cooking aids make healthy eating easy — and they’re all available on Amazon.

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Most Popular
7 Kirkland Signature Items to Avoid at Costco
7 Kirkland Signature Items to Avoid at Costco

Even if it seems you save a bundle buying Costco’s Kirkland Signature brand products, they may not be the bargain they appear to be.

How to Buy Gas At Costco Without a Membership
How to Buy Gas At Costco Without a Membership

The warehouse club often has some of the cheapest gas in town. Here’s how you can get it as a nonmember.

10 Things to Stop Buying If You Want a Clutter-Free Home
10 Things to Stop Buying If You Want a Clutter-Free Home

If you like to keep things simple, avoid these purchases.

If You Find This Thrift Shopping, Buy It
If You Find This Thrift Shopping, Buy It

Vacuums from this brand can last a half-century, if not longer — and they’re hot on the resale market.

A Simple Way to Silence Robocalls Today
A Simple Way to Silence Robocalls Today

A few steps can keep your phone from ringing when a spammer calls.

This Company Makes the Best Tires in America
This Company Makes the Best Tires in America

Driver satisfaction with tires is at an all-time high, but one brand stands out.

This Health Issue Can Hint at Dementia Years in Advance
This Health Issue Can Hint at Dementia Years in Advance

One type of pain is especially associated with cognitive decline.

Can I Switch to Spousal Social Security Benefits When My Ex Dies?
Can I Switch to Spousal Social Security Benefits When My Ex Dies?

Knowing when to claim can help you maximize benefits.

36 Things That Will Be Obsolete Soon
36 Things That Will Be Obsolete Soon

The writing is on the wall for dozens of things we have grown up with.

Medicare Will Not Cover These 6 Medical Costs
Medicare Will Not Cover These 6 Medical Costs

Don’t let these health care expenses catch you off guard in retirement.

8 Things You Should Always Buy on Amazon
8 Things You Should Always Buy on Amazon

The giant retailer shines when it comes to these things, from basics to hard-to-find specialty goods.

5 Ways to Get Amazon Prime for Free
5 Ways to Get Amazon Prime for Free

Hesitant to drop $119 a year on an Amazon Prime membership? Here’s how to get it for free.

8 Federal Income Tax Breaks for Homeowners
8 Federal Income Tax Breaks for Homeowners

Some of these deductions and credits are available to a wide swath of homeowners.

12 Deep Discounts Available on Amazon This Friday
12 Deep Discounts Available on Amazon This Friday

These items are steeply discounted — but the deals won’t last long.

5 Ways to Fill Your Pantry With Free Food
5 Ways to Fill Your Pantry With Free Food

Anyone can take advantage of these resources.

3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free
3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free

With a little ingenuity, you can cut Office costs to zero.

6 Reasons You Should Stop Hiding Cash at Home
6 Reasons You Should Stop Hiding Cash at Home

Stashing money around the house is anything but harmless.

5 States With the Worst Health Care for Retirees
5 States With the Worst Health Care for Retirees

All of these states are located in the same region of the nation.

5 Products You Should Never Buy Generic
5 Products You Should Never Buy Generic

Sometimes the brand-name version is clearly superior.

View More Articles

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Add a Comment

Our Policy: We welcome relevant and respectful comments in order to foster healthy and informative discussions. All other comments may be removed. Comments with links are automatically held for moderation.