Health reform penalties start

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In less than a month, more than 2,000 U.S. hospitals will be subject to financial penalties for preventable readmissions, making their relationships with post-acute providers more important than ever.

As dictated by the Affordable Care Act, starting on Oct. 1, Medicare will begin penalizing hospitals for failing to reduce preventable readmissions. Hospitals that don't meet targeted rates will face a maximum penalty worth 1% of their base Medicare reimbursement. That figure will jump to 2% in 2013 and then to 3% in 2014.

States that will bear the brunt of the penalties include New Jersey, New York, the District of Columbia, Arkansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, Illinois and Massachusetts, according to a Kaiser Health News analysis. States with the lowest penalties are: Utah, South Dakota, Vermont, Wyoming and New Mexico.

The hospital readmission penalties focus first on heart attacks, pneumonia and chronic heart failure. They make forming partnerships with quality long-term care providers, such as accountable care organizations, a crucial part to future success, experts say.