NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Medicare Now Supplies Nursing Home Data

November 15, 2002

People with elderly parents or other relatives not able to care for themselves can turn to a new source of information on nursing homes. The Department of Health and Human Services has posted nursing home data on its Medicare Web site -- showing how individual locations compare with others in patients' regions.

The information is available at or by calling 1-800-Medicare.

  • Many families currently rely on hospital discharge planners to help decide where to place an elderly relative -- but the new Web site should facilitate decision-making, since it grades the quality of nursing homes.
  • About 2.9 million Americans live in nursing homes -- and an estimated one-half of women and one-third of men will spend some time in one during their lifetimes.
  • The government pays for about 82 percent of beds in the nation's nursing homes through Medicare and Medicaid.
  • Those responsible for the new ratings system expect that it will encourage poorly-rated institutions to clean up their act.

But experts warn relatives not to rely solely on the ratings. They encourage prospective consumers to visit facilities under consideration several times and at different times of the day, talk with staff and residents and find out if their state has its own rating system.

Source: Sarah Lueck, "Nursing Homes Are Now Graded by Government," Wall Street Journal, November 13, 2002.

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