A provision of ObamaCare is set to punish roughly two-thirds of U.S. hospitals evaluated by Medicare starting this fall over high readmission rates, according to an analysis by Kaiser Health News.
Starting in October, Medicare will reduce reimbursements to hospitals with high 30-day readmission rates — which refers to patients who return within a month — by as much as 1 percent. The maximum penalty increases to 2 percent the following year and 3 percent in 2014.
Doctors are concerned the penalty is unfair, since sometimes they have to accept patients more than once in a brief period of time but could be penalized for doing so — even for accepting seniors who are sick.
“Among patients with heart failure, hospitals that have higher readmission rates actually have lower mortality rates,” said Sunil Kripalani, MD, a professor with Vanderbilt University Medical Center who studies hospital readmissions. “So, which would we rather have — a hospital readmission or a death?”
But according to federal government figures, nearly one in five Medicare patients is readmitted to a hospital within 30 days of release, costing taxpayers an estimated $17.5 billion.
“Readmissions has been a low-hanging fruit for Medicare,” said Jordan Rau, a staff writer with KHN, an editorially independent program of the non-partisan Kaiser Family Foundation. “They’ve been very unhappy that about 2 million Medicare beneficiaries are being readmitted every year between 30 days of discharge.”