A bipartisan group of U.S senators introduced legislation Thursday that aims to address growing concerns that hospitals serving low-income populations are unfairly penalized under Medicare's Hospital Readmissions Reduction Program.
The legislation would require the CMS to account for patients' socio-economic status when calculating risk-adjusted readmissions penalties. Holding all other factors constant, socio-economic conditions—such as poverty, low levels of literacy, limited English proficiency, minimal social support, poor living conditions and limited community resources—likely have direct and significant effects on avoidable hospital readmissions. Adjusting for these factors would improve accountability and quality of care, according to the text of the bill.
The CMS did not immediately respond to a request for comment. In a previous statement to Modern Healthcare on 30-day readmission penalties, the agency acknowledged the complexity but said its research shows hospitals in poor communities “can and do perform well on readmissions measures.”