HAC penalties shine spotlight on safety while prompting questions about fairness

Patient Safety Monitor Insider

March 4, 2015

It was a moment that the healthcare community had been reluctantly anticipating for some time: Medicare payment cuts to hospitals with high healthcare-acquired condition (HAC) rates offers a stark overview of patient safety deficiencies, while also prompting calls regarding the true fairness of the measure.

In December, the federal government announced it would cut payments to 721 hospitals, from October 1, 2014 through September 2015. The cuts came as a mandate from the Affordable Care Act, which required CMS to identify the lowest quarter of hospitals based on HAC rates, including bed sores, blood clots, central line-associated bloodstream infections (CLABSI) catheter-associated urinary tract infections (CAUTI), along with other preventable complications. The cuts will save approximately $373 million, according to CMS.

The cuts hit academic centers particularly hard. According to an analysis by Kaiser Health News, approximately half of the penalized hospitals are teaching hospitals. Perhaps more surprising was the fact that many hospitals that received HAC penalties were well-known and reputable medical centers, often highly ranked by other quality organizations. In fact, of the 17 hospitals that earned a spot on U.S. News and World Report's 2014-2015 Honor Roll, nine of them were penalized for HAC rates.

This is an excerpt from an article in Patient Safety Monitor Journal.

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