WASHINGTON – The Medicare Hospital Readmissions Reduction Program is working, according to an original analysis of Medicare claims data presented at a meeting of the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission.
“First, readmissions declined,” MedPAC staff member Jeff Stensland, PhD, said during a congressionally mandated staffto the commissioners. “Second, while observation stays increased, they did not fully offset the decrease in readmissions. Third, while [emergency department] visits also increased, those increases appear to largely be due to factors other than the readmission program. And fourth, in addition, all the evidence we examined suggests that the readmissions program did not result in increased mortality.”
including a reduction in readmissions and patients spending less time in the hospital with “at least equal outcomes,” Dr. Stensland said at the .
Taxpayers benefited from a $2 billion reduction in spending on readmissions, which will “help extend the viability of the Medicare Trust Fund.” He noted that improvements to the program will be discussed at future MedPAC meetings.
Not all MedPAC commissioners agreed with the staff analysis.
, PhD, of the Henry Ford Health System, Detroit, also was not convinced the program was having an impact, noting that hospital readmissions began to decline even before the program started.
In looking at a graph presented that showed this trend, “I was impressed by the fact that the trend line started coming down all the way to the left side of the graph, and what my eye was impressed with was more just the continuation rather than a change, so I guess I feel cautious saying the program had certain effects because they certainly don’t jump off the graph visually,” Dr. Nerenz said. “I’m not disputing the numbers, but to say just as a clear unqualified conclusion the program reduced readmissions, I’m not so sure.”