Medicare providers are required to meet specific health and safety requirements, as mandated by the Social Security Act, making them at least as safe as non-Medicare providers. Medicare also provides a hospital comparison tool to help patients make informed decisions.
Most Medicare providers also provide care to non-Medicare patients and treat both kinds of patient according to the same standards. The only providers that only accept Medicare patients are some nursing homes, intermediate care homes and psychiatric facilities. Medicare has special requirements for these types of facilities and performs unannounced inspections on a regular basis to ensure standards are being met.
The US government monitors Medicare provider quality based on a detailed metric and penalizes providers for not meeting quality standards. Hospitals are judged on factors including how often they readmit patients, patient satisfaction surveys, fair pricing for services and quality of care. Providers that fail these surveys can incur financial penalties or lose their provider status. In 2012, over 2,000 hospitals were penalized.
Medicare providers are also required to safeguard the privacy of their patients, just like any other medical provider. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 places strict requirements on healthcare providers with regard to what information can be disclosed, ensuring safe and confidential treatment. It also lessens the risk of identity theft or other fraud.