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Hospitals Brace for Next HAC Penalty

Cheryl Clark, for HealthLeaders Media, May 8, 2014

CMS will have to wield a bigger hammer for hospitals to take HAC prevention seriously. The new HAC penalty of 1% is that bigger hammer.

The overlaps of most concern are the penalties for central line bloodstream infections and catheter associated urinary tract infections. They are embedded in the value-based purchasing program, which results in up to a 2% cut in hospital payment, the HAC program, and the 2008 HAC payment provision, and they are often the most troublesome to prevent.

Top officials for CMS and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have acknowledged in numerous recent conversations with me that they're aware of the triple jeopardy of penalties for hospital-acquired conditions.

But they say they don't think it's unfair. It's right to double and triple up on these penalties to make a point. Hospital systems and their leaders will respond by putting people in charge, with authority to make cultural and procedural changes to reduce harm.

Hospitals can reduce these incidents. This week's HHS report shows they can. But they also can do a lot more, which I believe we'll see when the actual scores come out in August.


Cheryl Clark is senior quality editor and California correspondent for HealthLeaders Media. She is a member of the Association of Health Care Journalists.
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