Safety-Net Hospitals Could Get Hit Hard in October

Jul 22, 2012

When hospitals start getting paid based on the perceived quality of care they provide to their Medicare and Medicaid patients, so-called "safety net" hospitals, a last resort for the poor, could be the losers in the equation. That's because a main way of measuring quality will be patient experience ratings, and safety-net hospitals tend to get poorer marks from patients, according to a new study published in theĀ Archives of Internal Medicine.

Since hospitals have had to publicly report their patient experience ratings, the gap between how patients rated these facilities and the scores that other hospitals got widened. "We found that [safety-net hospitals] performed more poorly than other hospitals on nearly every measure of patient experience and that gaps in performance were sizeable and persistent over time," the authors write.

When the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services agency starts using the scores to hand out bonuses and penalties, safety-net hospitals could be at a disadvantage, especially since penalties could mean a 2 percent cut on regular Medicare payments. Starting in October, patient experience scores will determine 30 percent of a facility's bonus. "The hospitals that perform best will gain money, while those that lag in scores and improvement over time will end up with less," reports Jordan Rau for Kaiser Health News. (Read more)