A bump up: Quality score benefits Santiam Hospital

September, 2014 Posted in Business, News

By Mary Owen

While more hospitals received penalties than bonuses for the second year of Medicare’s quality incentive program, Santiam Hospital got a bump up in payments.

“It feels great to go up instead of down,” said Terry Fletchall, SH’s chief executive officer about the data released by Kaiser Health News. “We were pleasantly surprised this year. A lot of great hospitals had a decrease.”

According to Fletchall, the .41 percent boost will bring in about $150,000 to $200,000, depending on the total cost of Medicare billing by the hospital through September. The funds are a drop in the bucket to what it costs SH to cover Medicare/Medicaid write-off, he said.

“We don’t charge a lot, but our write-offs are still about 50-55 percent for all services we provide,” Fletchall said. “The extra funds will be welcomed.”

Mandated through the Center for Medicaid and Medicare Services, the two-pronged payment incentive program is part of an effort to make hospitals accountable on quality. One element is Value Based Purchasing that gives bonuses and penalties based on how well hospitals performed on 24 quality measures, including patient satisfaction and, for the first time, according to the Kaiser report, death rates. The second penalizes hospitals that have too many patients readmitted within 30 days of initial release. The total of both determines whether the hospitals receive an increase or decrease in incentive payments, from October 2013 to October 2014 on this round.

“This only affects acute-care hospitals, not critical-access hospitals,” Fletchall said. “We had the best score of all hospitals in the area.”

Salem Hospital received a .23 percent increase and Silverton Hospital, a .41 percent decrease, according to the release.

Adjustments do not apply to money Medicare pays hospitals for capital expenses, to teach residents, or to treat large numbers of low-income patients. “There is a real understanding in health care that we really need to reduce medical errors and increase the patient experience,” Fletchall said. “Hospitals have always been accountable, long before health-care reform.”

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