3 Iowa hospitals face Medicare penalties

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IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — Three Iowa hospitals face Medicare funding penalties after receiving poor infection-control scores from federal officials.

The University of Iowa Hospitals will lose up to $1 million from the federal health insurance program for the elderly and disabled, The Des Moines Register reports (http://dmreg.co/1x5ZmRQ ). Skiff Medical Center in Newton and Trinity Hospital in Bettendorf are also losing an unspecified amount of funding.

Medicare announced last week it would dock payments to 721 U.S. hospitals this budget year for failing to prevent patients from being infected with dangerous bacteria. The penalties are part of programs to improve quality ordered under the federal Affordable Care Act. They are intended to prompt hospitals to limit the spread of bacteria that are common in health care facilities.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that one in 25 patients contracts infections such as pneumonia and gastrointestinal illnesses each year. About 75,000 of the 722,000 infected people die.

Large medical centers including the University of Iowa say smaller hospitals often send them complicated cases that have higher likelihoods of infection. Some of the people referred to the larger centers are infected before they arrive, officials say.

"The population of patients we take care of is much more complicated than the average patient in Iowa," Dr. Theresa Brennan, the University of Iowa's chief medical officer, said.

Dr. Tom Evans, president of the Iowa Healthcare Collaborative, agreed that Medicare's infection rate data don't appear to have been adjusted enough to take patient risk into account.

Brennan also said the ratings reflect data that are two years old. The hospital has since undertaken a campaign to cut down on infections that includes bathing surgical patients in with antibacterial soap and quickly removing catheters, Brennan said.

"This institution looks remarkably different today than it did two years ago," she said.

A university spokesman says $1 million is 1 percent of what Medicare pays the university for inpatient treatment.


Information from: The Des Moines Register, http://www.desmoinesregister.com

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