Healthcare Business News

Late News: Patient satisfaction payments won't affect hospitals much

By Modern Healthcare
Posted: December 22, 2012 - 12:01 am ET

Hospitals won't see much change to their Medicare payments as a result of bonuses and penalties tied to quality and patient satisfaction that will be awarded for the first time in the new year. Medicare will marginally raise pay for 1,588 hospitals and dock pay for 1,426 others under its new value-based purchasing program. The program, which awards $964 million linked to performance on clinical and patient satisfaction measures, is one attempt under the healthcare reform law to more closely tie hospital payment to results instead of the sheer number of patients they treat. The CMS on Dec. 20 released a list of hospitals' bonuses and penalties under the value-based purchasing program. Health policy experts have applauded such incentives, but some have questioned whether the money at stake will be enough to motivate hospital officials and doctors to adopt changes that will reduce waste and improve quality. “The purpose here is really straightforward and very reasonable,” said Dr. Ashish Jha, an associate professor of Health Policy and Management at Harvard University. The incentives, however, are too weak, even as they are set to increase up to 2% over the next four years, Jha said. Unless Congress agreed to increase incentives, he said, value-based purchasing is unlikely to see results. But the small incentives were enough to get hospital executives' attention and allowed hospitals to gain experience before penalties likely increase, said Hal Luft, a healthcare economist and director of the Palo Alto Medical Foundation Research Institute. “We've moved away from the standard denial,” that hospitals across the U.S., with a few exceptions, uniformly deliver high-quality medical care, he said. “They've gotten past this denial that everybody does it well.”

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