State policies encourage unnecessary hospitalizations, study says

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Some state Medicaid policies inadvertently create financial incentives for nursing homes to hospitalize their frail elderly residents, putting them at significant risk, according to researchers at Brown University.

The lower the state Medicaid reimbursement rate to nursing homes, the more likely those homes were to hospitalize residents, researchers found. Hospitalization rates also were significantly higher in states that reimburse nursing homes for holding the beds of hospitalized residents, according to a Brown University release on the study. The hospital transfer and subsequent hospital stay can be disorienting or expose frail elderly nursing home residents to infection.

Researchers studied 8,997 nursing homes nationwide and tracked the status of 570,614 residents aged 65 and older living over a five-month period to see how many were hospitalized. Nationally, an average of 17% of all residents were admitted to hospitals at least once during those five months, according to the study funded by the National Institute on Aging.

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