By Jordan Rau
Once again, the majority of the nation’s hospitals are being penalized by Medicare for having patients frequently return within a month of discharge — this time losing a combined $420 million, government records show.
In the fourth year of federal readmission penalties, 2,592 hospitals will receive lower payments for every Medicare patient that stays in the hospital — readmitted or not — starting in October.
Overall, Medicare’s punishments are slightly less severe than they were last year, both in the amount of the average fine and the number of hospitals penalized.
Since the fines began, national readmission rates have dropped, but roughly one of every five Medicare patients sent to the hospital ends up returning within a month.
Some hospitals view the punishments as unfair because they can lose money even if they had fewer readmissions than they did in previous years. All but 209 of the hospitals penalized in this round were also punished last year, a Kaiser Health News analysis of the records found. Continue reading