Noteworthy News

Medicare Penalties Hurt Safety-Net Hospitals More, Some Argue

Penalties imposed on hospitals deemed to have excessive readmissions of Medicare patients may disproportionately target safety-net hospitals, some health care experts maintain.

Such penalties are part of Medicare’s hospital readmissions reduction program.

According to the recent New York Times article “Hospitals Question Medicare Rules on Readmissions,” “…health policy experts and hospital executives say the penalties, which went into effect in October, unfairly target hospitals that treat the sickest patients or the patients facing the greatest socioeconomic challenges.”  The article goes on to cite a recent report in the New England Journal of Medicine, noting that “Large academic medical centers and so-called safety-net hospitals are bearing the brunt of the new policy, and the authors warn that the penalties could make it even harder for hospitals struggling to care for those patients with the highest needs.”

The National Association of Urban Hospitals (NAUH) has long argued against the Medicare penalties for readmissions, maintaining that the patients urban safety-net hospitals serve are typically sicker and more difficult to treat than the average hospital patient.  Such patients also generally have a more difficult time gaining access to the family, community, and medical support services they need to avoid readmission to the hospital.  NAUH’s argument against Medicare’s readmissions reduction program can be found here, in the association’s June 25, 2012 letter to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services titled “Proposed Changes in Medicare Inpatient Payment Policies.”

Read the Times article hereiStock_000008112453XSmall.

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