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The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services made headlines yesterday with the release of its much anticipated -- and highly controversial -- quality ratings for 3,617 U.S. hospitals.

For those unfamiliar with these first-of-their-kind ratings, they award hospitals anywhere from one to five stars based on 64 measures of quality published on the CMS' Hospital Compare website, including patient reviews, infection rates and mortality rates.

The CMS has long championed the release of these star ratings for hospitals, arguing that similar systems have already been successfully deployed for nursing homes and other medical facilities, and that making these ratings readily available to the both consumers and patients "drives improvement, better reporting, and more open access to quality information."

The hospital industry, however, has spoken out against these ratings from the beginning, urging both Congress and the Obama Administration to block their release. Specifically, the prevailing belief is that these ratings will not only prove confusing to patients and families, but also prove unduly punitive to teaching hospitals and those that serve a significant population of indigent patients.  

“Health care consumers making critical decisions about their care cannot be expected to rely on a rating system that raises far more questions than answers,” said the president of the American Hospital Association. “We are especially troubled that the current ratings scheme unfairly penalizes teaching hospitals and those serving higher numbers of the poor.”

As far as the ratings were concerned, a mere 102 hospitals were awarded five stars, with many of the medical institutions long recognized as being among the best in the nation left off the top tier. Indeed, places like the Cleveland Clinic, Massachusetts General and Duke University Hospital were awarded four stars.

Rounding out the rest, Medicare awarded three stars to 1,752 hospitals, two stars to 707 hospitals, and one star to 129 hospitals.

In Florida, Medicare awarded five stars to two hospitals, four stars to 18 hospitals, three stars to 76 hospitals, two stars to 61 hospitals, and one star to 13 hospitals (including three here in Miami-Dade, two of which are teaching hospitals).

It will be incredibly interesting to see what affect these ratings have on hospitals going forward …

If you are a health care provider who would like to learn more about your rights and obligations as they relate to Medicare or other compliance-related issues, consider consulting with a skilled legal professional.

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