Deadly infections cost Medicare billions

As the number of sepsis cases among hospitalized patients rises dramatically, the cost to public and private insurers is also skyrocketing. The newest hospital payment data from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services put the cost to Medicare in the billions, according to a Bloomberg analysis.

While Medicare payments for many common procedures rose only moderately, Bloomberg found that payments for the three main sepsis-related diagnosis codes rose 9.5 percent from 2012 to 2013. Medicare paid hospitals $7.2 billion to treat sepsis in 2013, or about 11.6 percent of the $62 billion it doled out to hospitals overall.

Severe sepsis requiring mechanical ventilation was the costliest diagnosis in 2013, according to Bloomberg. Meanwhile, severe sepsis with a major complication was the second most frequently billed diagnosis in 2013, with cases jumping 15 percent since 2012 and 24 percent since 2011.  

Not only is sepsis costly, it's also extremely dangerous, as research has indicated that the bacterial bloodstream infection, which can lead to organ failure, is responsible for half of all hospital deaths. And a recent study presented at the American Thoracic Society's annual international conference found that hospital readmission rates for sepsis are as high as 15 percent, rivaling pneumonia and heart failure.

Though a 2013 study showed that severe sepsis mortality rates have actually declined in the past two decades, Eric Adkins, head of the emergency department at Ohio State University's medical school in Columbus, told Bloomberg that he expects an aging population will make the infection an even bigger threat in years to come.

"The population of people that are susceptible is growing," he said. "You'll see more cases as 50-year-olds become 60-year-olds and 60-year-olds become 70-year-olds."

To learn more:
- read the article

Related Articles:
CMS releases new physician, hospital payment data
Sepsis rivals pneumonia, heart failure for readmissions
Sepsis contributes to half of hospital deaths
Sepsis mortality rates on the decline
Nurse-led program cuts sepsis deaths in half
Kaiser sepsis program saves $36 million