Medicare To Stop Paying For Treatment Of Pressure Ulcers

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced last month that, it will no longer reimburse hospitals for treating eight “reasonably preventable” conditions as of October 2008 the Wall Street Journal reports. Pressure ulcers are among the most prevalent, costly and dangerous on the list. In addition to interfering with recovery, lengthening hospital stays and causing extreme pain and discomfort, pressure ulcers can increase the risk of infection, with nearly 60,000 deaths annually from hospital-acquired pressure ulcers.

Nursing homes and long-term-care facilities have made strides of their own in prevention, motivated in part by the costs of lawsuits for failure to prevent bed sores. Prevention methods can include using ultrasound to identify skin breakdown before a pressure sore forms, special pressure reducing mattresses and ensuring that residents are turned at least every two hours.

Despite the availability of these, and other, prevention techniques, nursing homes have long failed to do much to prevent pressure ulcers as they had no real incentive to do so (other than the fear of lawsuits). Most commonly, nursing homes save money by not having enough staff on hand to ensure that residents receive the treatments required. They are then “rewarded” for this behavior by Medicare paying them extra money per patient to treat the decubitus ulcers. As of October of 2008, nursing homes will instead have to “pay” to treat pressure ulcers which they cause. Hopefully this disincentive will result in better care for all nursing home residents.