Medicare is penalizing the same hospitals it highlights as having high quality

Understanding the Hospital-Acquired Condition (HAC) Reduction Program |  Interventional Radiology

Of the 764 hospitals the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) is penalizing this year with a one percent reduction in Medicare payments for scoring in the bottom quartile in the Hospital-Acquired Condition Reduction (HAC) Program, 38 also earned a five-star rating from CMS for overall quality of care.

This paradox is in part because Medicare’s star ratings compare a hospital’s safety and quality to a calculated average, whereas the HAC program requires Medicare to penalize the lowest-performing quartile of hospitals each year, even if they are showing improvement, or if the difference between low- and high-performing hospitals is miniscule.

The Gist: The promise of Medicare’s pay-for-performance incentive programs has not materialized, and is unlikely to be driving true clinical improvement. In addition to being confusing and tedious to comply with, the programs lack impact because penalties and rewards are too small to impact a hospital’s bottom line—the benefits don’t justify the costs of redesigning care processes or changing behavior. With years of evidence that many of these ACA-era quality programs aren’t producing the desired results, it’s time to find more effective ways of improving patient outcomes.