Providers urge Congress to pass bill that targets socioeconomic factors in readmissions

Hospital providers are pushing lawmakers to pass legislation during the lame-duck session that addresses the socioeconomic factors that may play into their readmission penalties.

Lobbyists are looking to get the Senate version of the Establishing Beneficiary Equity in the Hospital Readmission Program Act, introduced by Sen. Joe Machin III (D-WV) in March 2015, before Congress adjourns. Machin's bill would introduce adjustments to the HRRP based on socioeconomic factors, as well as IMPACT and MedPAC reports.

America's Essential Hospitals, which serves as a voice for 275 safety-net hospitals across the United States, has been particularly active in the fight to get the legislation passed, Modern Healthcare reported.

Hospitals that care for large numbers of low-income patients are more likely to be penalized under the Hospital Readmissions Reduction Program due to factors outside of their control, such as patients living in poverty or with substance abuse, said Shawn Gremminger, director of legislative affairs at AEH.

“The initiative has had the unfortunate, unintended consequence of taking money from hospitals that are treating the most low-income patients,” Gremminger told Modern Healthcare.

Legislators has asked the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to conduct a study on how to take socioeconomic status into account when analyzing readmissions data — a study that is likely crucial to whether or not the bill gets passed this session. The results of the HHS study are expected to be released soon, but it is unknown whether lawmakers will have time to take the study into consideration before they adjourn.

A similar bill targeting socioeconomic factors that may impact hospital readmission penalties was introduced in May by Rep. Pat Tiberi (R-OH). That bill was passed by the House in June.