Medicare Cuts Payments To 15 Hospitals For High Infection Rates, Injuries

Fifteen Connecticut hospitals will lose 1 percent of their Medicare reimbursements this fiscal year as penalties for having relatively high rates of hospital-acquired conditions, data from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) show. The hospitals are among 800 nationwide being penalized – the highest number since the federal Hospital Acquired Conditions Reduction Program started five years ago, according to a Kaiser Health News (KHN) analysis of the CMS data. The penalties will be levied during the current fiscal year, which began in October 2018 and runs through September. Under the program, which was created by the Affordable Care Act, the government levies penalties based on hospitals’ rates of infection related to colon surgeries, hysterectomies, urinary tract catheters and central lines inserted into veins.  It also reviews infection rates for Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA, and Clostridium difficile, known as C. diff, as well as rates of blood clots, sepsis, post-surgery wounds, bedsores and hip fractures, among other injuries.

Hospital Errors Decline, But Reports Of Pressure Ulcers, Falls And Burns Climb

Connecticut hospitals reported increases in patients suffering from pressure ulcers, as well as serious injuries or deaths associated with falls and burns in 2017, compared to 2016, according to a new state report. Overall, the total number of “adverse events” reported by hospitals dropped from 431 in 2016 to 351 in 2017, a 19 percent decline, the Department of Public Health (DPH) said. But most of the decline was due to the elimination of two categories in 2017: serious injuries or death resulting from perforations during open, laparoscopic or endoscopic procedures; and those resulting from surgeries. Together those categories accounted for 72 adverse events in 2016. The reporting requirement for the two categories was eliminated after a work group of the Quality in Health Care Advisory Committee concluded that the vast majority of perforations that occur during some procedures aren’t preventable, and that serious injuries or death resulting from surgery are already better captured by other categories, the DPH report said.

15 Hospitals Penalized For High Infection Rates, Injuries

About half of Connecticut hospitals—15 out of 31—will lose part of their Medicare payments in 2018 as a penalty for having relatively high rates of patients who acquired preventable injuries and infections while hospitalized. The hospitals are among 751 nationwide that will lose 1 percent of their Medicare reimbursements in this fiscal year. The penalties are part of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ (CMS) Hospital-Acquired Condition Reduction Program, which is part of the Affordable Care Act. The program penalizes hospitals with the highest rates of patients who got infections from hysterectomies, colon surgeries, urinary tract catheters and central line tubes. It also tallies those who suffered from blood clots, bed sores or falls while hospitalized.

Hospital Mergers Raise Concerns Over Patient Costs

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.