Hospitals anonymous

State refuses to identify hospitals it holds culpable for harming patients

California has been withholding money from 66 hospitals as punishment for medical errors that have harmed patients, but the state refuses to identify the facilities in question.

In the past 13 months, the California Department of Health Care Services has withheld about $750,000 in Medi-Cal reimbursements to hospitals the state holds culpable for errors, according to Norman Williams, a spokesman for the department, said disciplinary records haven’t been made public to protect patients’ private medical information, though patient advocates are criticizing the lack of transparency.

“Can you imagine if a plane were to crash and they said, ‘Oh, we can’t tell you what airline it was?’” said Erica Mobley of The Leapfrog Group, a nonprofit hospital-rating organization.

Starting this month, the federal government will withhold 1 percent of Medicare inpatient payments from hospitals with the worst rates of Hospital Acquired Conditions, or medical mistakes that lead to injury or infection.