On any given day, one in every 31 hospital patients has an infection that was contracted during their stay, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Infections and other complications can prolong hospital stays, complicate treatments and, in the worst instances, kill patients.
The HAC program, which launched in October 2014, evaluates hospitals based on their rates of several avoidable complications. 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. Every year, the facilities in the lowest-performing 25% are penalized by losing 1% of their Medicare payments. The total penalty amount is based on how much Medicare pays each hospital during the federal fiscal year — from last October through September. So far, the program has penalized 1,978 hospitals at least once since it was established in 2014, according to a Kaiser Health News analysis. Of those, 1,360 hospitals have been penalized at least twice, and 77 hospitals have been penalized each year the program has been in place. Congress exempts the more than 1,000 critical access hospitals, as well as Maryland hospitals, and certain specialized hospitals (children’s, psychiatric, and veterans) from the penalties.
Hospitals can be punished even if they have improved over past years — and some have.
“Although significant progress has been made in preventing some healthcare-associated infection types, there is much more work to be done,” the CDC says.
See How Your Hospital Fared
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