For months we have taken our health care reform message to our nation’s leaders, hospital associations and government health agencies: National health reform should include the public reporting of all hospital infection rates.

Our message caught on! A coalition of House Democrats have included public reporting of hospital-acquired infections in their reform bill (HR 3200), and reducing payment to hospitals that aren’t doing enough to prevent infections. Some key details:

  • All hospitals and ambulatory surgical centers are required to report infections to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Infection rates will be made public on the Health and Human Services website.
  • Extension of Medicare no pay for hospital-acquired infections to Medicaid.
  • New best practices created for hospital-acquired infections under the new Center for Quality Improvement.
  • Ambulatory surgical centers are required to report quality data, including hospital-acquired infections.

The inclusion of safety provisions in the House bill is truly encouraging. When health care facilities are required to collect and report infection rates, patients will be better equipped to make decisions about where they must receive treatment. In turn, hospitals will be motivated to reduce infection rates when their treatment outcomes are open to public examination. Government plans already put on the table–such as the Health and Human Services “action plan” for preventing healthcare-associated infections–did not go far enough in setting national targets. It would require more meetings, more research and too much time for patients to remain at risk.

Two House lawmakers helped set the stage for including infection-prevention in the health reform bill by introducing legislation that would require hospitals to take stronger action to reduce infections.

Last month, Representative Jackie Speier (D-CA) introduced a bill (HR 2937) to screen certain patients for MRSA and to make hospital-specific infection rates public. Representative Tim Murphy (R-PA) re-introduced his bill (HR 3104) to require public reporting of hospital-acquired infections without pre-empting related state laws. (Pennsylvania has set a good example for how hospital infection public reporting works at the state level, producing several hospital-specific reports since 2005). Key elements of the Speier and Murphy bills are included in the House health care reform bill.

House Democrats are expected to pass their committee-approved version of the bill soon. As the fight continues on the Senate side, public reporting of hospital infections is one element of health care reform that should not be compromised by politics. CU’s Healthcare Reform Director, DeAnn Friedholm, told Inside Health Policy:

At long last, this bill offers a national response to this deadly problem, by providing public information on what each local hospital is doing to stop these unnecessary deaths. The light of publicity will enable consumers—and dedicated medical staffs—to insist on major quality reforms.