Hospitals making little headway in preventing readmissions, report finds

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Hospitals have made little progress in decreasing the volume of readmissions of individuals treated for acute and chronic illnesses according to a new report.

The report reflected little improvement in readmission rates between 2004 and 2009; some regions saw an increase in readmissions. According to the report, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services estimates that the cost of avoidable readmissions at more than $17 billion per year.

Under the Affordable Care Act, CMS in October 2012 will start enacting reimbursement cuts to hospitals with high readmission rates. This will be a problem for hospitals that fail to take steps to improve post-acute care and follow-up, according to the report, titled “After Hospitalization: A Dartmouth Atlas Report on Post-Acute Care for Medicare Beneficiaries.”

Additionally, hospitals are looking at a penalty equal to 1% of their total Medicare billing if an excessive number of patients is rehospitalized. The penalty shoots up to 2% in 2014 and 3% in 2015, according to the report. This will only enhance the value of high-quality post-acute providers, such as nursing homes, that take on patients for post-hospital rehabilitation and other long-term treatment, experts point out.

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