University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson is among 14 hospitals having Medicare payments cut.


The federal government is cutting payments to 14 hospitals in Mississippi because of their high numbers of patient injuries, according to a report from the Centers for Medicare Services.

Nationwide, the federal government is penalizing 769 hospitals by docking Medicare payments by one percent for a full year. This is the third year that Medicare has imposed these penalties.

Last year, only nine Mississippi hospitals made the list. For fiscal year 2015, the number was 12.

Richard Roberson, a vice president at the Mississippi Hospital Association, called the uptick a blip and said that his organization has been working steadily with hospitals across the state to make improvements.

“I think universally the quality of care in Mississippi is continuing to improve, and hospitals are committed to that continuous improvement in the quality of care for our patients,” Roberson said.

The Mississippi hospitals on the list run the gamut from smaller, regional facilities such as Rolling Fork’s Sharkey Issaquena Community Hospital to Jackson’s sprawling University of Mississippi Medical Center.

But Dr. Michael Henderson, UMMC’s chief medical officer, said the hospital’s massive size is what makes it susceptible to being included on the list. The Medical Center was also penalized two years ago in 2015.

“This is a list of the hospitals in the country taking care of the sickest of sick patients. The risk adjustment does not adequately account for this,” Henderson said. “Notice how many academic medical centers, some of the best hospitals in the country, are on the list.”

UMMC is the only teaching hospital in the state. But 120 of the 769 hospitals on the national list are affiliated with a medical school.

Patient injury is a broad term, encompassing a variety of complications, from hospital-acquired infections to broken hips and bed sores.

Some hospitals are exempt from the penalties. These include specialized hospitals that treat psychiatric patients, veterans and children, as well as “critical access” hospitals, which means they are the sole provider in an area. Approximately 30 hospitals in Mississippi have a “critical access” designation.

Of the remaining hospitals, the Affordable Care Act requires that Medicare cut payments to the 25 percent that perform the worst on these measures, even if they have reduced their infection rates from previous years.

Roberson agreed with Henderson’s statement that Medicare is using one-size-fits all standards for very different types of facilities.

“Just looking at this list, you’ve got some very large facilities that are going to be the primary acute care for their areas, they’re going to get more susceptible patients, like Baptist Desoto. It’s a huge hospital and they get the sickest patients in the area,” Roberson said.

Baptist Desoto in Southaven is one of three Mississippi hospitals to have their payments cut all three years that Medicaid has issued penalties for patient injuries. The other two are Jasper General in Bay Springs and South Central Regional Medical Center in Laurel.

Other hospitals on the list for this year are Anderson Regional Medical Center South in Meridian, Delta Regional Medical Center in Greenville, Marion General in Columbia, Mississippi Baptist Medical Center in Jackson, Mississippi Methodist Rehab in Jackson, Patients’ Choice Medical Center in Raleigh, Rush Foundation Hospital in Meridian, Sharkey Issaquena Community Hospital in Rolling Fork, South Sunflower County Hospital in Indianola, and Whitfield Medical Surgical Hospital in Whitfield.

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Larrison Campbell is a Greenville native who reports on politics with an emphasis on public health. She received a bachelor’s from Wesleyan University and a master’s from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism.Larrison is a 2018 National Press Foundation fellow in public health, a 2019 Blue Cross Blue Shield Foundation of Massachusetts fellow in health care reporting and a 2019 Center for Health Journalism National Fellow.