Readmission Penalties Hurt Systems Serving Low-Income Patients


A recent study in the Joint Commission’s Journal on Quality and Patient Safety reports, “Hospitals with limited resources continue to struggle as they try to implement programs that drive down readmission rates, and federal penalties could potentially make matters worse.”

According to Medical Economics, hospitals that have excessive readmissions, “had their Medicare payments docked up to 2%, and the maximum penalty rises to 3% in fiscal 2015.” The penalties “could exacerbate existing disparities as already under-resourced hospitals face further reductions in their financial resources.”

Many times, patients are unable to receive care because they are homeless or do not have transportation—factors that increase the risk someone will be readmitted.

Even if a hospital had done everything in their power to prevent a readmission, external factors outside of its control could make readmission inevitable. Medicare should revise its readmission penalties to make them more flexible in this regard.

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