Thursday, January 12, 2017

Penalties for patient-safety shortcomings hit 769 hospitals; could be nixed by Obamacare repeal

This is the third year federal government will apply penalties to hospitals that fall short of patient safety standards, leading one Consumers Union leader to wonder why hospitals aren't working harder to eliminate the infections and complications that are causing them to loose money, Trudy Liberman writes in her column for the Rural Health News Service.

“What I am most frustrated about is the lack of urgency in the country and at the agencies for eliminating these infections," Lisa McGiffert, head of the Consumers Union Safe Patient Project, told Liberman. "They are aware of them, but there’s not a sense of urgency to stop them."

"The penalties, along with the entire program to eliminate hospital-acquired conditions, were authorized under the Affordable Care Act," Liberman writes. "They could be in jeopardy if the law is repealed. Some hospitals probably would be happy if they disappeared."

Penalties are levied against hospitals that have a high number of patients with avoidable infections and complications, including blood clots, urinary-tract and surgical-site infections, bed sores and falls. And this year, infections related to antibiotic-resistant infections, like methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and C. difficile, have been added to the list.

Medicare will impose a 1 percent cut in payment to 769 U.S. hospitals who fell short of these patient safety standards in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30. Since the inception of the penalty program, Lieberman reports, 241 hospitals have been punished in all three years, but 347 that were penalized last year are not on the "bad-guy list."

Critical-access hospitals (by definition, rural) and specialized hospitals that treat psychiatric patients, veterans and children are exempt from the penalties.

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