Noteworthy News

Are Readmission Penalties Bad Medicine for Medicare Patients?

As the federal government prepares to penalize hospitals with high readmission rates, new research suggests that appropriate readmissions may actually result in better care for the nation’s seniors.

According to new research, some hospitals that have high readmissions rates for the medical conditions that Medicare tracks – heart attacks, heart failure, and pneumonia – also have higher survival rates among patients with those conditions.

Such findings, while preliminary, call into question the manner in which Medicare intends to adjust future payments to hospitals based on their readmission rates in the value-based purchasing program it will introduce in October of this year.

This issue is of particular concern to urban safety-net hospitals, which care for many low-income and dually eligible seniors who have had sporadic contact with the health care system throughout their lives and often present multiple medical challenges that require more than one hospitalization to address.  Earlier this month, the National Association of Urban Hospitals (NAUH) asked members of CongressHospital Sign to sign onto a letter circulating among their colleagues that urged Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to delay implementation of Medicare’s hospital readmissions reduction program until she can re-examine that program’s potentially unfair and damaging impact on private urban safety-net hospitals.

Read more about these new findings and their implications in this Kaiser Health News report.

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