Hospital-acquired infections can have dramatic and dire consequences, imperiling patients whose heath is already compromised in many cases. As hospitals nationwide are learning the hard way, the infections also can have major bottom-line implications.
The federal government has penalized 774 hospitals for having the highest rates of patient infections or other potentially avoidable medical complications, according to Kaiser Health News. Those hospitals will lose 1 percent of their Medicare payments over 12 months.
The penalties, based on patients who stayed in the hospitals anytime between mid-2017 and 2019, before the pandemic, are not related to COVID-19. They were levied under a program created by the Affordable Care Act that uses the threat of losing Medicare money to motivate hospitals to protect patients from harm.
Now in its seventh year, the Hospital-Acquired Condition Reduction Program has been greeted with disapproval and resignation by hospitals, which argue penalties are meted out arbitrarily. Under the law, Medicare each year must punish the quarter of general care hospitals with the highest rates of patient safety issues. The government assesses the rates of infections, blood clots, sepsis cases, bedsores, hip fractures and other complications that occur in hospitals and might have been prevented. The total penalty amount is based on the amount Medicare pays each hospital during the federal fiscal year from last October through September.
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