Original Study| Volume 19, ISSUE 10, P852-859.e2, October 2018

Socioeconomic and Geographic Disparities in Accessing Nursing Homes With High Star Ratings



      The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Nursing Home Compare (NHC) serves as the most comprehensive repository of Medicaid- and/or Medicare-certified nursing homes providing services to approximately 1.4 million US residents. A gap in the literature exists in understanding on the national level whether residents from socioeconomically disadvantaged counties experience disparities in the access to nursing homes with higher NHC star ratings. The study aimed to examine nursing home quality variations with regard to county-level socioeconomic, geographic, and metropolitan status, while adjusting for nursing home facility-level characteristics.


      Cross-sectional ecological study.

      Setting and participants

      15,090 Medicaid/Medicare-certified nursing homes with nonmissing star ratings.


      Study outcomes were NHC overall, health inspection survey, nurse staffing, and quality measure star ratings. County-level measures included SES index, geographic regions, and metropolitan status. Facility-level characteristics included ownership, chain affiliation, type and length of Medicaid/Medicare certification, hospital affiliation, continuing care retirement community status, number of certified beds, and occupancy.


      Counties with average adjusted overall, nurse staffing, and quality measure star ratings below 3 stars appeared to be clustered in the South. Nursing homes located in counties with lower SES were associated with lower overall star ratings [adjusted mean stars: 3.66 to 3.84, 95% confidence interval (CI): (3.54, 3.79) to (3.73, 3.95)]. A similar pattern was observed in staffing [adjusted mean stars: 3.75 to 4.23, 95% CI: (3.54, 3.97) to (4.10, 4.35)] and quality ratings [adjusted mean stars: 3.29 to 3.52, 95% CI: (3.12, 3.47) to (3.35, 3.69)].


      Residents in socioeconomically disadvantaged counties experience disparities in accessing nursing homes with higher star ratings. These areas may lack sufficient resources to adequately staff the facility and deliver care that meets industry quality standards. These issues are likely to persist and possibly even worsen for the lower- and middle-class geriatric population given the current uncertainty around healthcare reform.


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