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Medicare reducing payments to Hannibal Regional

Hannibal Courier-Post - 1/2/2018

Jan. 02--Hannibal Regional Hospital will see a one percent reduction in Medicare payments from the federal government for having "high rates of patient injuries."

The payment reduction will begin retroactively from October 2017 and continue through September 2018, the federal fiscal year. A program tying Medicare payments to patient injury is in its fourth year as part of the Affordable Care Act. Hannibal Regional was also penalized in the 2017 fiscal year, but was not penalize the prior two years.

Hannibal Regional President/CEO Todd Ahrens assured the community that the care provided at Hannibal Regional is safe.

"Our community should rest assured that they have high quality, safe healthcare right here at home. Hannibal Regional is a trusted source of excellent healthcare and is on a continual quest to always improve access and quality, he said. "Our Hospital has won many prestigious quality awards and has an outstanding team of professionals who work tirelessly to guide our patients and community to better health."

The program analyzes things like infection rates, bed sores, urinary tract infections, blood clots, hip fractures and other hospital-acquired conditions. It also includes readmissions as part of the data collected. Data specific to a hospital was not immediately available.

They also contend there's a lag in the data -- meaning many hospital already identified and made adjustments or improvements in hospital safety measures prior to the federal government levying a penalty.

At Hannibal Regional, staff use a scorecard daily to analyze the quality of care received by patients. The hospital also uses quality committees.

Leadership also says environmental factors beyond the influence of the health system -- such as the socioeconomic status of the region, the region's smoking rate, and access to health insurance -- adversely impact Hannibal Regional's patient safety score.

As a result, Ahrens said Hannibal Regional is becoming evermore focused on becoming a partner in the entire health of the community along the healthcare continuum.

"We are a leader and partner in the health of our region, which extends beyond the provision of healthcare services. In that role we work in conjunction with many groups to affect the quality of health throughout the continuum of care, including coordination with nursing homes and county health departments, as well as incentives and resources to assist in our residents embracing healthier lifestyles," he said. "Together we can all improve the quality of life and healthcare in our region by partnering to make the healthy choice the right choice, as well as increase communication and commitment to better health across the entire continuum of care"

Hannibal Regional was one of 751 hospitals nationwide penalized by the government. Other Missouri hospital on the most recent list include hospitals in large metro areas like Kansas City and St. Louis and other smaller metro areas like Houston, Mo., and Lebanon, Mo. In total, nine Missouri hospitals were penalized in the most recent round.

While Hannibal Regional leadership had some good things to say about incentivizing patient safety, they also say it's difficult to make a judgment about the quality of a hospital by simply looking at a penalty alone.

According to Kaiser Health News, the penalties have been controversial from the beginning. The hospital industry faults them as unfairly punishing hospitals that treat sicker patients and those that do a better job of identifying infections and other patient complications. Additionally, critics say the program targets smaller hospitals because of a smaller sample size. Patient advocates say that, while not perfect, the penalties have been a valuable prod to make hospital executives consider more than the bottom line.

Reach editor Eric Dundon at eric.dundon@courierpost.com .

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(c)2018 Hannibal Courier-Post, Mo.

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