The CMS announced late Friday that it will go ahead in January with the rollout of a five-star rating system for kidney dialysis providers and will use the same methodology that drew harsh criticism from kidney-care groups this summer.
Use of the ratings on the agency's dialysis facility compare website is intended to help Medicare beneficiaries compare the quality of care they can expect to receive at centers across the country. The rollout had been scheduled for October but was delayed amid complaints from providers.
The CMS says the program will maintain the methodology presented during the July preview period. It includes nine publicly reported quality measures, such as standardized ratios for transfusions, mortality and hospitalizations, and percentages for KtV values, which show whether enough waste was removed from the patient's blood during dialysis. The ratings also will reflect percentages of adult dialysis patients with high calcium levels. Some measures will be weighted more heavily than others.
After the CMS revealed the methodology, dialysis providers argued that the end-stage renal disease quality incentive program and Medicare's survey process already assess the same factors and that the new rating program would generate conflicting results. Providers could not be reached for comment regarding the CMS' Friday announcement.
All dialysis facilities participating in Medicare will have 15 days to review their data and star rating before the material is posted on the CMS website in January. The deadline for submitting comments, including questions about the accuracy of a facility's rating, is Nov. 24. Data will be updated on an annual basis beginning in October 2015, the CMS said.
A similar five-star rating system has been applied to nursing homes since 2008, and the CMS added one for physician groups this year. Those programs have also come under fire for lacking rigor.
The CMS also plans to extend the rating system to hospitals and home-care providers this winter, but the agency has not provided timelines for them.
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