Hospital readmissions declined again in 2013, Sebelius credits provider partnerships

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Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius

The number of seniors readmitted to a hospital within a month of discharge continued to decline in 2013, according to data released Wednesday by the government. The trend shows that greater coordination between different healthcare providers is paying off, said outgoing Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.

The all-cause 30-day hospital readmission rate for Medicare beneficiaries was 17.5% last year, HHS announced in a memorandum. The rate was 18.5% in 2012, and it was around 19% for every year between 2007 and 2011.

Government officials said providers outside hospital systems have played an important part in reducing readmissions.

“We applaud the nationwide network of hospital systems and providers that are working together to save lives and reduce costs,” said Sebelius.

The Affordable Care Act introduced new payment systems designed to reward care coordination among hospitals and other providers, including post-acute and long-term care facilities. Participants in accountable care organizations, bundled payment systems and other new models share in savings they achieve by providing more integrated patient care and reducing unnecessary services and transitions between settings.

The ACA also implemented Medicare reimbursement reductions tied to hospitals'  readmissions numbers. Skilled nursing facilities will be subject to similar penalties starting in 2018, under a recently passed law.

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