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Medicare to Fine more than 700 Hospitals for Safety Incidents

Update Date: Dec 11, 2015 10:51 AM EST
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758 hospitals across the United States will be fined for safety incidents, a new Medicare report revealed.

The federal government fines hospitals based on their rates of complications from certain procedures in 2013 and 2014. This round of fines factored in the rate of infections in patients who had central lines inserted and in those who needed incisions for procedures such as hysterectomies. These types of infections accounted for 75 percent of the overall evaluation.

In the remaining 25 percent of the evaluation, Medicare looked at the rates of eight other complications, which included surgical tears, hip fractures and more.

Over the course of this fiscal year, which ends after September 2016, Medicare will be reducing it payments to these hospitals by one percent. The fines will cost these facilities an estimated total of $364 million. The penalty system does not include veterans hospitals, critical access hospitals and children's hospitals.

"I think the penalties are important," said Helen Haskell reported by NPR. "I think it's the only thing that gets people's attention. My concern is the measures stay strong or even be strengthened."

The penalization system was started in 2010 as a part of the Affordable Care Act. The system aims to encourage hospitals to improve their level of care. The effectiveness of the fines has been debated constantly. Some public health advocates argue that the fines are not large enough to force hospitals to make real changes while many hospitals state that fines take away money that could be used to improve the system.

"What bothers me the most is when people are improving and get that penalty, that's money that could be invested into better care," said Dr. Mark Jarrett, chief quality officer for the North Shore-LIJ Health System on Long Island. "Taking the money away, all you've done is to make it harder for hospitals to function."

Penalties will always affect hospitals who fall in the bottom 25 percent regardless of whether or not they have made huge improvements.

"We don't believe the HAC [hospital acquired conditions] measures are well designed because by law, the program must impose penalties on 25 percent of hospitals each year," Brad Fisher, the spokesman for DCH Regional Medical Center in Alabama, said reported by AL.com. "Many of those hospitals tend to be hospitals like DCH Regional Medical Center and University of Alabama Hospital, who see large numbers of poorer and sicker patients. It is DCH's mission to serve all patients who come to us for care. We find it unfortunate that we and other similar hospitals are penalized for doing so."

According to the report, more than half of these hospitals were on the same list last year. Some of the hospitals who will be fined for the first time this year include well-known facilities, such as the Denver Health Medical Center as well as two satellite centers that are run by the Mayo Clinic Health System.

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