Public Policy

Data Show Medicare Readmission Penalties Unfair


Data Show Medicare Readmission Penalties Unfair


In December, the Altarum Institute’s Center for Elder Care and Advanced Illness released data showing that while San Diego County hospitals do better than national averages in reducing readmissions rates, nearly all of the eligible hospitals are being penalized by Medicare’s hospital readmissions penalty program because their discharges are being reduced through best practices at about the same rate as their reductions in readmissions.

The American Hospital Association and America’s Essential Hospitals (representing public hospitals) have both provided evidence to press their claims that the government’s Hospital Readmissions Reduction Program is unfair for refusing to adjust readmissions penalties and other hospital quality measures based on socioeconomic factors that influence readmission risk. A recent JAMA Viewpoint discusses an expert panel’s review of the National Quality Forum’s long-standing policy of not adjusting quality measures for sociodemographic risk factors out of a concern that it could create lower standards of care for disadvantaged patients. The panel concluded that this policy needed to be revisited.

Larry Beresford is a freelance writer in Alameda, Calif.

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