Public Policy

COPD Readmission Penalties Hurt Hospitals Serving Low-Income Patients


Government penalties meant to reduce COPD readmissions will unfairly impact hospitals that care for vulnerable patients, according to a report from the University of Michigan.

Beginning in January 2015, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services will add COPD to its list of medical conditions for which it penalizes hospitals for excessive readmissions and fines them up to 3% of their total Medicare reimbursement for COPD readmissions.

Researchers Michael W. Sjoding, MD, and Colin R. Cooke, MD, MSc, MS, both of the University of Michigan Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation in Ann Arbor, evaluated three years of data on 3,018 hospitals and found that COPD readmission rates ranged from 17% to 28% across all hospitals. Hospitals designated as major teaching hospitals, those with a high percentage of patients with low socioeconomic status, and those with a high volume of COPD patients were associated with higher COPD readmission rates (P<0.001 for all).

The findings were published last month in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

"It has been shown that there is a correlation between patients' social structures and support at home and COPD readmissions," Dr. Sjoding says. "Economic resources and education level can also drive readmissions, situations that are beyond hospital control."

Policies that measure hospital quality, Dr. Sjoding says, are important to ensure that patients have access to quality care across the country. However, when creating policies aimed at reducing readmission rates, CMS should level the playing field, he says. For example, academic hospitals caring for complex patients should be compared against their peers.

"It's important that physicians speak up to make sure that policies do the right thing," he says.

Visit our website for more information about managing patients with COPD.

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