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Medicare has online tool to compare nursing homes, doctors

Suppose you or a loved one needed to get cardiac bypass surgery. Wouldn’t it be useful to be able to consult one online tool to find and evaluate a surgeon and hospital as well as a nursing home and home health services for rehabilitation after this surgery?

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services is betting the answer is yes.

Last month, CMS unveiled Care Compare, a streamlined redesign of eight existing CMS healthcare compare tools available on Medicare.gov.

Care Compare aims to give Medicare patients and family caregivers a user-friendly online tool to make informed decisions about healthcare based on location, cost, quality of care, volume of services, and other data, and the site is compatible for use on smartphone and tablets.

Patients can find information in eight areas: doctors, hospitals, nursing homes, home health, dialysis centers, long-term care hospitals, inpatient rehabilitation and hospice groups.

“By aggregating all eight of CMS’ quality tools into a single interface, patients can easily research different providers and facilities before they entrust themselves to their care.” said CMS Administrator Seema Verma, in announcing the new tool. The goal, she said is “ensuring the tools are robust and beneficial to patients.”

The consolidation could also boost patient awareness.

Emma Boswell Dean, assistant professor of Health Management and Policy at University of Miami’s Miami Herbert Business School, said before Care Compare, the tools were somewhat underutilized separately. “In talking to Medicare patients, they don’t even know all the tools available. Bringing them together in one tool is a really smart idea.”

Still, Dean and other experts gave Care Compare mixed reviews. While all agreed the amount of information available is important and deep, some said the tool could be easier to manipulate for seniors, while others question aspects of the underlying data. However, they all

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How Homeowners Can Accurately Compare Bids on Custom Home Construction and Remodeling

Homeowners are used to hearing "get at least 3 bids" before proceeding on a construction project. This is sound advice as well as getting referrals from friends and family. Bids are only useful however, if they come from comparable companies, and if they are structured so that they can be accurate compared. Many owners, and even some architects, don't do a good job at detailing the project.

The most important requirement is a complete set of plans and specs. If everything about the project isn't clearly spelled out, each bidder will make different assumptions – about fixtures, appliances, finishes, and so on – leading to widely divergent bids. And because each bidder's assumptions will likely differ from the buyer's, the stage is set for conflict during the project. The way to make bidding more productive for everyone is to eliminate assumptions and to give each bidder a legitimate chance of succeeding.

1) Buyers should interview three to five builders to see whom they would like to work with. If a buyer is working with an architect, the architect will likely have a list of builders that seem a good fit for the project. The buyers may also want to call previous customers of each builder for references.

2) Buyers should invite two or three builders to submit budgets. Note that the bidders may want to know who they are bidding against. For example, an established professional company may choose not to compete against a small, less-professional outfit with a reputation of lowballing.

3) Provide as detailed plans and specs to each builder as possible-besides being necessary for an accurate bid, it also allows the builders to look for discrepancies, incomplete items, and other problems. Plans are rarely perfect, so a good architect should welcome such feedback and be willing to …

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