The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services recently revamped its rating system for nursing homes. The result: About one-third of all facilities received lower ratings.

It’s time we raise the standards for nursing homes across the country. The change in the rating system was long overdue. It was last modified in 2008.

The new ratings are available on the government-run Nursing Home Compare website, used by more than a million consumers seeking long-term care for themselves or a loved one. Several new features were taken into account under the new rating system, including the use of anti-psychotic drugs (proven to have dire consequences for senior patients, particularly those with dementia), staffing availability and quality of care.

Before the overhaul of the rating system, a large percentage of nursing homes had inflated five-star ratings. Facilities were able to continue receiving top marks without changing care in any way, often resulting in subpar care that was either unnoticed or not penalized.

Today in South Carolina, our nursing home ratings include:

40 Five-Star (Much Above Average)
49 Four-Star (Above Average)
34 Three-Star (Average)
35 Two-Star (Below Average)
30 One-Star (Much Below Average)

Nationally, the largest drop in scores came in the quality of care, in which the average nursing home fell from 4.18 stars to 3.3 stars.

The new rating system is long overdue and will be a great resource for anyone interested in finding out more about nursing home care. Many facilities have consistently gotten through inspections despite many deficiencies all because of a lax rating system.