by James C. Sherlock
One of the most disturbing commentaries I have read in a long time relating to federal efforts to improve hospital patient safety reports a major step backwards in that program.
I have written here many times of the power of the hospitals over Virginia’s politics. A proposed new federal rule shows that power at the federal level. It would negatively affect your ability to understand and compare the patient safety records of hospitals.
The Biden administration Centers for Medicare/Medicaid Services (CMS) proposes to hide from the public a CMS rating that helps consumers view relative patient safety grades of hospitals. As important to the hospitals, perhaps, no one would be able to report on that information.
It also proposes to waive $350 million in fines for hospitals that violated existing regulations.
CMS for the Secretary of Health and Human Services is, with this rule, exercising the extraordinary powers the Secretary gives himself by constantly extending the Declaration of Public Emergency for COVID. And yes, that is legal.
Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association (VHHA) submitted a 17-page letter of comment. It of course supported the waiver of fines. On the issue of suppressing patient safety data, the VHHA wrote, unsurprisingly:
“VHHA and its members are supportive of the proposed suppression (of data) in the HVBP program.”
The letter also encouraged CMS to also suppress pneumonia mortality measure because of the potential overlap with COVID- related pneumonia.
The only way that could happen since CMS is already suppressing data with a primary or secondary COVID diagnosis is if there was no reported COVID indication in pneumonia cases.
The proposal itself represents a major scandal. A total of 1,533 comments, now closed, were submitted on the proposed rule.
They comments from doctors and patient safety groups were unsupportive. Hospitals were very supportive. The Virginia Department of Health sent a short letter on the larger rule, but did not comment on data suppression.
The result: political healthcare rules courtesy of the Biden administration and the hospital lobby.
The following article is reprinted by permission of Kaiser Health News. Continue reading →