News: Medicare cuts payments to 800 hospitals, citing patient safety incidents

CDI Strategies - Volume 13, Issue 10

Eight hundred hospitals will see a pay cut this year from Medicare due to high rates of infections and patient injuries. This is the highest number of cuts since the launch of the Hospital Acquired Conditions (HAC) Reduction Program five years ago. Of the 800 hospitals, 110 are being penalized for the fifth year in a row, according to Kaiser Health News.

Penalized hospitals (or, those in the bottom quarter when it comes to HACs) will see a 1% reduction of their Medicare payments for patients discharged between October 2018 and September 2019. This reduction is in addition to any other penalties received under other quality payment programs, such as the Readmission Reduction Program.

Industry groups have protested the HAC penalties in the past, saying that the program’s design creates an arbitrary cutoff for which organizations are punished and which are not. The American Hospital Association (AHA) calculated that only roughly 41% of the 748 hospitals penalized in 2017 had HAC scores that were significantly higher than hospitals that weren’t penalized, Kaiser Health News reported.

Additionally, many hospitals have complained that organizations that do the best job testing for infections etc. appear to be among the worst based on statistics. In contrast, their peers that do a poorer job testing appear better.

Though the number of hospitals receiving penalties this year is higher than in years past, according to research from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) published in February, HACs have actually declined by 13% between 2014 and 2017. This has prevented an estimated 20,500 deaths and $7.7 billion in healthcare costs. This reduction has lead supporters of the HAC Reduction Program to sing its praises in spite of ongoing concerns from industry groups.

Editor’s note: To read Kaiser Health News’ coverage of this story, click here. To read about the report from the AHA, click here. To read about the research from AHRQ, click here.

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