What are CMS Star Ratings for Nursing Homes?

Choosing a nursing home for yourself or a loved one can be a difficult decision. With so many factors to take into account (quality of care, living conditions, amenities, location, accessibility, cost, available financial support, etc.) it’s easy to feel overwhelmed.

Thankfully, there are resources available to assist families and potential residents in making informed decisions. One such resource is the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) star ratings system. CMS is a federal agency that regulates and oversees nursing homes in the United States. CMS uses a five-star rating system to evaluate nursing homes based on three main categories: health inspections, staffing, and quality measures.

Let’s take a closer look at these three main categories:

Health Inspections

The health inspection rating is based on the results of unannounced, on-site inspections conducted by state survey agencies. These inspections evaluate a nursing home's compliance with federal regulations related to resident health and safety. Areas evaluated during a health inspection include resident assessment and care planning, nursing services, food and nutrition services, pharmacy services, infection control, physical environment, and equipment.


The staffing rating is based on the number of hours of care each resident receives daily. This includes registered nurses (RNs) and licensed practical nurses (LPNs), certified nursing assistants (CNAs), and other staff members. The staffing rating considers both the quantity and the quality of the staff members providing care.

Quality Measures

The quality measures rating is based on multiple factors, including the percentage of residents who have had flu and pneumococcal vaccinations, the percentage of residents who have experienced falls with major injury, the percentage of short-stay residents successfully discharged to the community, the percentage of long-stay residents able to maintain their ability to move independently, and the percentage of residents who experienced pressure ulcers.

Why CMS Star Ratings are Important?

CMS star ratings provide a standardized way to evaluate nursing homes. Star ratings can provide families and potential residents with a better understanding of the quality of care provided and can act as a valuable tool when comparing different facilities, helping them to make more informed decisions about where to receive care.

In addition, the star ratings can be useful for nursing homes themselves. By identifying areas where they need to improve their care and services, nursing homes can use the star ratings as a tool for continuous improvement. They can work to enhance their staffing levels, improve the quality of care, and address any issues that are identified during health inspections.

It’s important to note though, that while the CMS star ratings system is a useful tool, it is just one of many factors to consider when choosing a nursing home. Other factors such as personal preferences, healthcare professionals' recommendations, and family members' suggestions should also be considered.

All in all, CMS star ratings can be an important factor to consider when choosing a nursing home for yourself or a loved one. So, take a moment to check a nursing home's star ratings before making a decision. It might just make a world of difference.

Unio Editorial Team

The Unio Health Editorial Team is a group of writers, content creators, and thought leaders who are here to empower you to take charge of your health