Medicare penalties for MRSA infections could cost some hospitals millions

The federal government will start penalizing hospitals in 2017 for patients who contract Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infections during their stay, and the move will cost many institutions millions of dollars in Medicare revenue--not to mention the cost of treating the afflicted patient.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) rules currently penalize facilities in the lowest quartile regarding hospital-acquired infections (HAI). But it will include financial penalties specific to MRSA starting next year, according to Infection Control Today.

MRSA costs about $10 billion a year to treat in the U.S., averaging about $60,000 per patient. And a large chunk of hospitals already struggle to control MRSA outbreaks, as well as clostridium difficile and other types of HAIs. And there have already been grumbling from hospitals that preventing MRSA outbreaks is already a pricey endeavor.

Hospitals in New York City are expected to be particularly vulnerable--Infection Control Today said they were penalized to the tune of $26 million last year for HAIs that don't include MRSA. That compares to $9 million for Los Angeles hospitals and $8 million for Chicago. "Once MRSA is factored in, these losses will skyrocket," the article said.

Infection Control Today suggested that hospitals beef up their air filtration systems to include photocatalytic oxidation, which removes virtually all MRSA as soon as the air passes through, along with many other infectious bacteria and viruses, including staph and tuberculosis.

Some healthcare policy experts have suggested that constructing more single-patient rooms would help ward off MRSA and other HAIs, even though construction costs are usually higher. However, the extra expenditures would be made up by having to treat significantly fewer HAIs in the long run.

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