Others have been less successful—in particular, safety net hospitals that provide care for many of the nation's poor, unemployed and uninsured, who are disproportionately black and Hispanic. This year's special analysis provided by Truven Health Analytics discovered a direct relationship between the socio-economic status of patients and their outcomes after accessing care.
That translates into higher 30-day readmission rates at the nation's safety net hospitals, as Sabriya Rice reports in this special supplement. It suggests the CMS may be penalizing hospitals for their patient population profile, not their poor performance.
The CMS responds that many safety net hospitals perform well compared to their peers. The government says it's the quality of care that matters, noting some hospitals have figured out how to provide the follow-up social services needed to achieve better outcomes.
Officials must always be vigilant for the unintended consequences of their policies, especially when it comes to using payment to reward outcomes. One way to test the CMS response is to see if some safety net hospitals do better than others in dealing with low socio-economic status patients. It's a question that Modern Healthcare will be seeking answers to in the months ahead.
Follow Merrill Goozner on Twitter: @MHgoozner