Eighteen Connecticut hospitals will lose 1 percent of their Medicare payments in 2016 as a penalty for comparatively high rates of avoidable infections and other complications, such as pressure sores and post-operative blood clots, according to new federal data. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced this month that 758 of the nation’s hospitals – about 23 percent of all eligible hospitals — would be penalized for patient safety lapses in the second year of the Hospital-Acquired Condition Reduction Program, which was mandated by federal health care reform. The penalties are based on rates of infections and other complications that occurred in hospitals between 2012 and 2014. The 18 hospitals in Connecticut include larger urban institutions, such as Yale-New Haven, Hartford and Bridgeport hospitals, and smaller hospitals, such as Manchester Memorial and Windham. They are among hospitals in the worst performing quartile nationally on patient-safety measures including the frequency of central-line and catheter-related infections, post-operative sepsis and accidental laceration.
Connecticut hospitals reported fewer numbers of patients killed or seriously injured by falls or perforations during surgery or suffering from severe pressure ulcers in 2014 than in 2013, but the incidence of such “adverse events” still remains higher than in 2012, a new state report shows. The report by the Department of Public Health (DPH) shows that the total number of hospital adverse events, or errors, dropped by 12 percent — from 534 in 2013, to 471 last year. Deaths or serious injuries from falls declined from 90 to 78; perforations during surgical procedures fell from 79 to 70; and life-threatening medication errors fell from six to one. The number of patients with serious pressure ulcers dropped from 277 to 245. Rates of all four of those incidents had climbed in 2013, in part because of an expansion of required reporting on pressure sores to include “unstageable” ulcers.
Hospital administrators in Connecticut who have been involved in the unprecedented streak of mergers and consolidations often tout the financial benefits and efficiencies of such moves. But as the number of independent hospitals in the state dwindles – with more than half of the 29 acute-care hospitals now operating in networks with other hospitals or out-of-state partners – experts and advocates worry that the consolidations will reduce competition in the market and give hospitals more leverage to raise prices. Adding to their concerns is a proposal by a private company to convert four non-profit hospitals to for-profit entities. Several studies, as well as data from the federal Medicare program, suggest that mergers and for-profit conversions may lead to higher prices. But the state has yet to study the impact of mergers on patient pricing, and has no requirement that hospitals try to hold patient charges steady after a merger or conversion. The state also has no comprehensive blueprint guiding hospital configuration or limiting the number of takeovers or networks it will allow.
Twenty-four of Connecticut’s 31 hospitals will face Medicare penalties in the fiscal year starting in October, in the second round of the federal government’s push to reduce the number of patients readmitted within a month of discharge, new data shows.
Hospitals in Connecticut charge vastly different amounts of money for the same procedure – sometimes triple the price — according to data released Wednesday by federal Medicare officials. The cost discrepancies are detailed in a report by the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, which for the first time is making data available to the public on prices for the 100 most common medical procedures. The report shows what hospitals charge to Medicare, as well as the lower amounts that they collect from the government. In Connecticut, prices for most procedures varied widely among hospitals. For a cardiac pacemaker implant, for example, Yale-New Haven Hospital’s average bill was $85,902, while Manchester Memorial Hospital billed a low of $22,096. Stamford Hospital billed $25, 493 to treat simple pneumonia, while Charlotte Hungerford Hospital’s average bill was $8,177.
Connecticut has saved an estimated $5.4 million in Medicare costs since 2010 by reducing re-hospitalizations of patients through a collaborative “communities of care” model in place in 14 regions around the state, including Hartford, New Haven, Milford, Meriden and Torrington. The estimate by Qualidigm, the state’s Medicare quality improvement organization, coincides with a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) that showed a marked decrease in both hospitalizations and readmissions of Medicare patients in regions where quality improvement organizations (QIOs) coordinate interventions that engage community partners to improve care after discharge. Hospital clinicians and their community partners in the 14 regions of Connecticut have stepped up “to find solutions (so that) patients are benefitting from enhanced coordination among providers across the care continuum,” said Dr. Mary Cooper, vice president and chief quality officer of the Connecticut Hospital Association, which is working with Qualidigm on the “communities of care” model. Readmitting Medicare patients to the hospital within a month of discharge is a frequent—and expensive — occurrence. A new report published this week by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation shows that hospitals and their community allies made little progress from 2008 to 2010 at reducing readmissions for elderly patients.