Noteworthy News

New Medicare Readmissions Policy to Hit Safety-Net Hospitals Hardest

A new Medicare reimbursement policy that will penalize hospitals financially for readmitting patients within 30 days of discharge will have a disproportionate impact on hospitals that care for large numbers of low-income patients.

According to an analysis by Kaiser Health News, hospitals that treat significant numbers of low-income patients – those eligible for Medicare disproportionate share (DSH) payments – are more likely to be penalized by Medicare than other hospitals.  Those that serve the most poor patients are twice as likely to suffer the maximum Medicare penalty as those that care for the fewest low-income patients.

The penalties apply to patients readmitted after suffering pneumonia, heart attacks, and heart failure.

The new Medicare readmissions reduction program poses a particular problem for private, non-profit urban safety-net hospitals.  The National Association of Urban Hospitals (NAUH) has long opposed the implementation of such a program without appropriate risk adjustment for the additional challenges such hospitals face because so many of their patients have additional medical problems and often have difficulties following post-discharge instructions and getting and paying for follow-up care.  NAUH has conveyed these concerns to federal policy-makers and continues to advocate vigorously for a more measured approach to reducing unnecessary readmissions among Medicare patients.

Read more about the new Medicare reimbursement program and the Kaiser analysis in this Kaiser Health News reportPrescription Medication Spilling From an Open Medicine Bottle.

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