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Illinois hospital fees to pay for error reports

Published: Wednesday, July 9, 2014 11:12 a.m. CDT

CHICAGO — A new annual licensing fee for Illinois hospitals that takes effect this month will finally fund a system for reporting medical errors that was established by state law back in 2005.

The new fee, which will raise about $1.7 million annually, was part of legislation signed by Gov. Pat Quinn last week. Hospitals had been the only licensed health care organizations in Illinois not paying a state licensing fee.

Now the state will collect $55 per hospital bed to fund a system for hospitals to report mistakes such as surgeries that are performed on the wrong body part. The idea is to improve patient safety by analyzing how errors occur.

A portion of the money will go toward new safety measures and addressing patient complaints. Small rural hospitals are exempt from the fees, as are safety-net hospitals that treat mostly poor patients.

"We fully support this law to help the department have the necessary resources to implement the law as part of an overall framework for quality improvement and patient safety initiatives," Illinois Hospital Association spokesman Danny Chun told Crain's Chicago Business.

With only 17 hospital inspectors for the whole state, the Illinois Department of Public Health had pushed for years for a hospital licensing fee to pay for more official inquiries into complaints about hospital care. The hospital association had opposed those proposals. A compromise was reached by shifting the emphasis toward funding an error reporting system mandated by the 2005 state law.

"We're moving from a punitive approach to consultative so that we can learn from bad things that do happen and will happen," Dr. LaMar Hasbrouck, the director of the Department of Public Health, told Crain's.

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