Hospitals lately have been getting better at ensuring their patients don’t relapse shortly after they walk out the door. Nonetheless, Medicare this week began docking a record number of hospitals for having too many readmissions.
Over the next year, 2,610 hospitals will lose some of their payments for each Medicare patient they admit, Medicare records show. This is the third year the industry faces these penalties, which were created by the Affordable Care Act. This year potential fines are the highest: up to 3 percent of Medicare bills.
The penalties aren’t just getting more harsh; they’re also affecting more hospitals. Half of the hospitals in 29 states and the District of Columbia will be losing money. Those states include California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Texas, according to a Kaiser Health News analysis of the penalties.
Only Maryland hospitals emerged unscathed, but that’s because the state has a unique payment arrangement with the federal government.
One reason the punishments are expanding is that Medicare is tracking more conditions. In addition to patients suffering from heart failure, heart attacks and pneumonia, this year Medicare analyzed readmissions of patients with elective hip and knee replacements and lung ailments such as chronic bronchitis. As a result, some hospitals that never faced fines before — including some specialized ones that concentrate on lucrative procedures — are now on Medicare’s list.
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