AHA asks CMS to suspend hospital star ratings

In a letter issued to CMS Administrator Seema Verma Tuesday, the American Hospital Association urged the agency to suspend its "deeply flawed" overall star ratings program, which is less than 1 year old.

CMS unveiled the Overall Hospital Quality Star Ratings on its Hospital Compare website in late July 2016. The AHA voiced concern about the star ratings immediately upon their release. This week the advocacy group reaffirmed its opposition by calling on CMS to suspend the metric from Hospital Compare.

"While we continue to be concerned that CMS's methodology is flawed, our concern is amplified by the fact that further analysis performed since the star ratings were first released show that substantive errors were made in executing CMS's chosen methodology," the AHA stated in the letter. "As a result, far too many hospitals have been incorrectly classified into star rating categories that are different than those that should have been assigned."

The star rating system is updated quarterly and combines 64 public measures into a single, one-to-five star rating. CMS designed the consumer-friendly classification in hopes it would help families and patients compare hospitals in their area with greater ease.

CMS was originally supposed to unveil the star ratings in April 2016, but delayed the release after members of Congress voiced concern about methodology. Lawmakers were not alone in their hesitancy.

Consumer groups — like AARP — hailed the ratings as a step forward for the public, but major hospital groups, academics and safety-net and teaching hospitals voiced concern. A Georgetown University economist found several shortcomings in the program, such as its failure to account for social determinants of health. AHA President and CEO Rick Pollack wrote last year that the association was concerned ratings unfairly penalized teaching hospitals and those serving higher numbers of poor patients. Leaders with the Association of American Medical Colleges said patients would find the ratings confusing at best, misleading at worst.

Earlier this month, CMS reported it will not update the star ratings in July due to data issues with three measures. It anticipates the next update in October. 

Here is the breakdown of how 3,499 star-rated hospitals were classified as of April 28:

  • Five stars: 188 hospitals
  • Four stars: 1,178 hospitals
  • Three stars: 1,493 hospitals
  • Two stars: 563 hospitals
  • One star: 77 hospitals

The request to CMS is one of several AHA made, all in an attempt to reduce the number of regulatory burdens on hospitals. To read the letter in full, click here

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