Federal money has not yet made a big difference in reducing hospital readmissions, report states

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Federal funding might not be a critical factor in bringing down hospital readmissions rates, suggests a recently released report on a program out of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation.

The Community-based Care Transitions Program (CCTP) funnels federal dollars to community agencies nationwide. The agencies are using the money to try to reduce hospital readmissions of seniors by providing post-discharge support services. Many of these 48 community organizations — 78% —  have reported partnering with at least one non-hospital entity, such as a skilled nursing facility or home health agency.

However, in the early stages, only four of the projects significantly reduced readmissions compared to a control group, according to the report from consulting firm Econometrica.

The CCTP is only one of many initiatives and incentives aimed at reducing hospital readmissions in the wake of the 2010 Affordable Care Act. Some of the CCTP participants did achieve readmissions reductions in their associated hospitals, but comparison hospitals also achieved reductions through other means, the report noted. This gives some fodder to critics of the ACA-initiated Innovation center who think it's a waste of money.

However, some experts note that the Econometrica report is limited in scope and focuses on the very earliest stages of the CCTP. The project began on a limited basis in 2011, and the last round of participants entered in 2013. The report is on 2012 results from early-round participants only, some of whom had only a few months of data to share. A Congressional mandate to closely monitor the program explains why the document was produced at this stage, Kaiser Health News reported Wednesday.

“It's really too early to tell,” Ellen Lukens, vice president at Avalere Health and an expert in post-hospital care, told KHN. “Can you really evaluate this when it's been such a short period of time?”

Click here for the complete report, dated May 30 but posted on the Health and Human Services website Jan. 2.