Infection rates in Iillinois hospitals may bring Medicare penalties

This fall, Medicare payments may be docked for six or more Illinois hospitals as the government cracks down on infections and other injuries to patients.

Northwestern Memorial Hospital, which has one of the highest rates of hospital-acquired medical conditions in the state, is on the list.

Beginning in October, annual penalties for Northwestern and five or more other hospitals in the state could amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The penalties are assessed at the rate of one percent of all Medicare payments per year and are intended to provide an incentive for hospitals to improve the care of their patients. Infections and other injuries acquired at hospitals are a major public health concern, and they cost the federal government and taxpayers money for additional treatment. 

When a patient injury is the result of negligence on the part of medical personnel, a medical malpractice lawsuit may also be filed.

In April, the federal government released a preliminary national list of 761 institutions that may be assessed, although that list may now change as further data is taken into account. The list includes 26 of Illinois’ 125 hospitals. A smaller list of six includes the institutions most likely to face penalties, which rank in the bottom 10 percent on a national basis in infection rates and avoidable safety problems. Northwestern is the only Chicago-area hospital included in the list of six.

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