Medicare is cutting payments to 800 hospitals around the country for having relatively high rates of infections and injuries among their patients, according to an analysis by Kaiser Health News. That’s the highest number of penalties in the five years that the federal government has handed them out.
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Penalized hospitals will see a one-percent cut to payments for Medicare patients discharged between October 2018 and September 2019. The penalties are the result of an annual assessment set up by the 2014 Hospital-Acquired Condition Reduction Program, which was created under the Affordable Care Act. The program ranks all hospitals based on their rates of specific infections and in-hospital injuries. From there, Medicare penalizes the bottom quarter or subsection—the threshold varies from year to year based on the data. So far, 800 is the highest number penalized, seconded by 769 two years ago.
The infection rates that the program looks at are those linked to urinary tract catheters, colon surgeries, hysterectomies, plus blood infections from central lines. The program also tallies infections from the dreaded Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and Clostridium difficile, which causes intractable and sometimes life-threatening diarrhea. The injuries assessed include bedsores, in-hospital falls that cause hip fractures, wounds that burst open after surgery, blood clots, and kidney injuries after surgery.