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Government Conceals Hospital Safety Information

Since 2005, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), a federal agency involved with overseeing hospitals and nursing homes, has posted quality ratings on its website, allowing patients to make important decisions about where to seek treatment. In 2011, the CMS also posted information about eight different “hospital acquired conditions” (HACs), injuries to patients likely caused by the care they received. Examples of HACs include injuries from falls, from being given the wrong kind of blood, and from objects left in the body after surgery.

Recently, the CMS removed this HAC information from the website. Hospitals had complained that it was unreliable, despite the fact it is used by the government to fine and otherwise punish hospitals guilty of providing substandard care. The CMS claims that it was directed to come up with new standards to measure the incidence of the most common HACs and that the HACs that are no longer available to the public concern rare events that shouldn’t ever occur in hospitals.

Consumer advocate groups counter that injuries caused by substandard medical care are a big problem, that patients ought to have ready access to this information to allow them to make informed decisions about health care, and that the CMS’s decision to hide information allowing patients to be informed consumers of medical care is a bad one.

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