The fairness of readmission penalties has been a topic of increased interest as hospitals now have Medicare reimbursements docked up to 2% for excess readmissions. That penalty rises to 3% in fiscal 2015. America's Essential Hospitals, a national association that advocates for the nation's safety net hospitals and health systems, links to more than 20 other recent studies looking at the impact of socio-economic factors on health outcomes. These types of studies are catching the attention of policymakers.
In June, a group of six U.S. senators introduced legislation called the Hospital Readmissions Program Accuracy and Accountability Act, which aims to address what the senators called the “unfair penalization and stigmatization of hospitals serving low-income populations.” Last week, the National Quality Forum announced it plans to conduct a trial examining the effects of various socio-economic factors factors on risk-adjustments. Thirty-day readmission measures may potentially be included as a component of the trial, though NQF says specific details have not been established.
The current study, conducted by researchers from Emory University in Atlanta; Brown University in Providence, R.I. and Stanford University School of Medicine in Palo Alto, Calif., was funded by one of the first pilot grants issued through the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute. The not-for-profit organization was established through the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act to support comparative-effectiveness research.
Becker says the current report is a subset of a larger project. The researchers plan to look at similar data in 13 other states, and will also investigate how the size of the penalties affect hospitals' abilities to improve patient outcomes.
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