When it Comes to Hospital Quality, Penalties Speak Louder than Words

Money talks. The Hospital Acquired Conditions Reduction Program, launched five years ago under the ACA, penalizes hospitals falling within the lowest safety quartile – those with the highest rates of hospital-acquired conditions. This year 800 penalized hospitals are seeing red – quite literally – as they lose 1% of Medicare payments for their time in the lowest quartile.

What we like is the attention this is bringing to safety. It used to be quiet over in the safety corner, but now it’s loud. We can argue about the merits of grading on a curve, but we love it when the only way to get around a penalty is to drive straight up the safety curve.

Two end notes. Look up your preferred hospital now and if it’s on the list, consider finding another.  If you have to make a trip to a hospital, you want to stay safe. Secondly, check if the lowest quartile hospitals are part of your carriers’ networks, and ask your carriers what they are doing to drive a better safety profile. It may well be time to add a safety penalty to your performance guarantees.

Beth Umland
by Beth Umland

Director of Research, Health, Mercer

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