Feds Want a Policy That Advocates Say Would Let Hospitals Off the Hook for Covid-Era Lapses

by | Jul 7, 2022 | Health

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services is responding to the chaos of the covid-19 pandemic by proposing to hide from the public a rating that lets consumers compare hospitals’ safety records and to waive approximately $350 million in financial penalties for roughly 750 hospitals with the worst patient-safety track records.

CMS’ chief medical officer, Dr. Lee Fleisher, said those safety metrics were not designed to properly account for how a pandemic, with its patient surges and workforce shortages, might affect hospital systems.

“Safety, transparency, and quality of care of patients is not enhanced by the use of skewed or inaccurate data, and, in fact, could result in negative consequences for patients,” he said. “CMS wants the public to have complete trust in the data and will make data on quality available when we have a high confidence in its credibility and accuracy.”

But patient safety advocates argue CMS is letting hospitals off the hook for their pandemic performances, and many decried the loss of transparency that suppression of such data would cause.

CMS wants to keep “patients, payers, and insurers in the dark on what happened during the pandemic,” said Patricia Kelmar, director of health care campaigns for the nonprofit U.S. Public Interest Research Group. She added that without penalties, hospitals won’t be forced to change ahead of the next crisis that strains health systems.

“There was no comma in the law that says, ‘Unless there’s a pandemic, you don’t have to pay these penalties,’” Kelmar said.

The proposed rule comes after CMS officials publicly acknowledged in the New England Journal of Medicine that progress on lowering hospital-acquired in …

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