By Barbara Peters Smith

Source: Herald Tribune

We’re No. 11!

The federal government’s star rating system for nursing homes has led to improvements across they board, proving that transparency works. But because state agencies do the inspections and report their findings to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Servies, there hasn’t been a reliable way to tell how one state’s skilled long-term care compares to another’s: a pertinent question for forward-thinking retirees.

Now Families for Better Care, a Tallahassee advocacy group for long-term care recipients, has crunched the numbers and come out with a state-by-state report card. Florida, with a “B” grade, just missed the top 10. Alaskans get the best care, according to this new comparison of eight federal quality measures, and Texans get the worst.

The key to good care? According to Brian Lee, director of the group, it’s simple: staffing, staffing, staffing.

“States whose nursing homes employed an abundance of professional nurses and frontline caregivers translated to higher marks,” he writes. “Three states (Alaska, Hawaii and Maine) scored a ‘superior’ grade in all staffing measures and each was ranked among America’s best nursing home states. Conversely, of those four states (Georgia, Louisiana, Tennessee, and Texas) with failing staffing measures each scored a below average overall grade.”

The report offers insights into each state’s weaknesses and strengths. Here are its noteworthy findings on Florida:

— Professional nursing services were almost non-existent in Florida’s nursing homes; each resident averaged only 39 minutes of professional nursing care per day.

— Less than 10 percent of Florida’s nursing homes cited a severe deficiency, while 1 in 3 scored above average on health inspections.

— Florida’s ombudsman program verified slightly over half of registered complaints.

— Florida’s above-average nursing home care ranks first in the Southeast Region, scoring the region’s highest grade in direct care staffing hours.

The truly bad news, on a nationwide basis: Nursing home residents get less than three hours of direct care per day in 48 of the 50 states. And in almost half the states, one in five nursing homes abused, mistreated or neglected residents.