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August 2010

Never Say Never: Understanding Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Policy on Usually Preventable Harm

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliation: Catholic Healthcare Partners, Cincinnati, Ohio.

Arch Surg. 2010;145(8):800-801. doi:10.1001/archsurg.2010.139

The article “Patient Characteristics and the Occurrence of Never Events” by Fry et al1 appeared with a bit of fanfare. Web-based health care news services quickly disseminated the study's findings, declaring that “never events” were not preventable and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services' (CMS’s) nonpayment for never events was wrong-headed.24 At first blush, this study seemed to provide a strong challenge to CMS policy; however, a more thoughtful review of the article demonstrates that the authors reached conclusions regarding CMS policy by using clinical conditions and complications that are not part of current reimbursement rules and measurement methods that failed to accurately identify hospital-acquired conditions.

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