Medicare-Medicaid agency rated 74 Kentucky hospitals this year; 20 got one of the top two grades, 28 got one of the bottom two

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By Melissa Patrick

Kentucky Health News
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has released its Hospital Quality Star Ratings for 2021, with new methodology that includes fewer Kentucky hospitals.
Of the 74 Kentucky hospitals that CMS rated in its most recent report, only five got the highest rating, five stars: Clark Regional Medical Center in Winchester; Meadowview Regional Medical Center in Maysville; Owensboro Health Muhlenberg Community Hospital in Greenville; Saint Joseph Berea; and Saint Joseph Mount Sterling.
Five hospitals got the minimum rating of one star: Hazard ARH Regional Medical CenterMonroe County Medical CenterRockcastle County Hospital in Mount Vernon; The Medical Center at Bowling Green; and University of Louisville Hospital. 
Most hospitals fell in the middle, with 23 getting two stars, 26 getting three and 15 getting four. By that measure, Kentucky hospitals did not compare well with those in adjoining states.
Unlike Kentucky, every state adjoining it had more hospitals in the top two categories than in the bottom two. Among other neighboring states, Arkansas looked most like Kentucky, with 15 in the top two and 20 in the bottom two. Georgia had 23 in the top two and 32 in the bottom two.
Individual hospital ratings can be found on the CMS Hospital Compare page. They are based on 51 quality measures in five categories: mortality, safety of care, readmissions, patient experience, and timely and effective care. Prior ratings had seven categories. CMS also changed how it calculates scores and compares hospitals, now grouping them into one of three peer groups for comparison.
CMS said it did not do its originally scheduled ratings in January, to allow time to review comments about and finalize the new methodology.
The last time Kentucky Health News reported on the ratings in 2019, the agency rated 94 Kentucky hospitals. The number fell by 20 because the new methodology “excludes those with too few data points to create a reasonable rating,” Deborah Campbell, vice president of quality and health professions for the Kentucky Hospital Association, said in an email.

“KHA conducted an informal survey of Kentucky’s hospitals, and from the responses we received, some improved by one star, a small number went down by one star, but most stayed the same. The CMS list of ratings confirms the data from that survey.”

In addition to the Hospital Compare website, consumers can also check ratings by U.S. News & World Report, which were released in July; and the recently released safety ratings by the Leapfrog Group. Another resource is Kaiser Health News‘ list of hospitals that are penalized by Medicare for high rates of readmissions and hospital-acquired conditions.
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