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Are tougher readmissions policies helpful or harmful?

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STAT takes a look at the Medicare Hospital Readmissions Reduction Program, which is meant  to encourage hospitals to deliver stepped-up care to very sick  patients  after they leave the hospital in order to try to prevent costly return visits — costly in terms of health and of expense to taxpayers.

The article says: “And one thing scholars generally agree on is that the program has achieved its primary goal: It has reduced readmissions. A wide body of evidence shows that readmissions began to fall in 2012, when financial penalties took full effect. They have since declined several percentage points in each of the three conditions originally included in the program, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation analysis of Medicare data.

“But skeptics say those results belie a darker truth — that hospitals are taking shortcuts, and in some cases compromising patient care, to avoid financial pain and public embarrassment.

One recent report by the University of Michigan found that a large percentage of the reduction in readmissions is attributable to changes in the way hospitals are describing their patients in claims data. By describing them as sicker, hospitals can increase their risk adjustments, thus reducing financial penalties.”

To read the article, please hit this link.

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