6:40pm

Tue April 12, 2011
Shots - Health Blog

New Proposal Aims To Cut Down On Hospital Infections

Finally, something health-related that everyone can agree on.

Well, almost everyone.

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on Tuesday pledged "up to $1 billion" for a new "Partnership for Patients." The initiative aims to reduce preventable hospital infections and patient readmissions after they have been discharged.

"Every time a patient gets an infection in the hospital, or is readmitted because they didn't get the right follow-up care, our nation's health care bill goes up," Sebelius said at a news conference at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.

The proposal builds on existing rules for Medicare hospital payments, which impose financial penalties against hospitals for patients who experience preventable complications. Among the types of complications hospitals will be asked to examine are those associated with adverse drug reactions, bed sores, childbirth and surgical site infections.

The billion dollars is to come from the Affordable Care Act, last year's health overhaul. According to HHS, if health care professionals are successful in reaching the goals laid out in the initiative, the initial $1 billion investment could reap as much as $35 billion in savings over the next three years, including $10 billion for Medicare alone.

"As the country's largest payer for care, Medicare has a powerful ability to be a catalyst for change," said Sebelius.

The proposal already has the backing of lengthy list of 'who's who' in health care, including hospital, physician, nursing, insurance, consumer and employer groups. In a statement, Rich Umbdenstock, president of the American Hospital Association, said his group "will be an active partner with HHS in this effort." Karen Ignagni, president and CEO of America's Health Insurance Plans, echoed that enthusiasm, pledging "to work together with the public sector and other stakeholders."

Noticeably absent from the list of people praising the initiative, however, were GOP lawmakers. That's likely because they are still intent on repealing the health overhaul law that will provide the funding.

The announcement comes as a new poll finds most Americans are not very impressed with the quality of the nation's health care system.

The poll, conducted last month for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation by the Harvard School of Public Health, found only a third of those polled rated the system as deserving an A or a B, while 28 percent said it rated only a D or an F. A plurality, 38 percent, said it deserved a grade of C. Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.