A total of 2,610 U.S. hospitals will see their Medicare payments docked in fiscal 2015 for having excessive numbers of patients return to their facilities within 30 days of discharge.
The CMS last week posted its third round of readmission penalties, which will affect Medicare reimbursements from Oct. 1, 2014, through Sept. 30, 2015.
The tally of hospitals subject to fines is 400 more than in the first two years of the program (2,225 in fiscal 2014 and 2,217 in fiscal 2013). Of those facing the newest round of penalties, 39 received the maximum fine of 3%.
Because the maximum penalty is higher in fiscal 2015, comparing changes from 2014 to 2015 requires measuring the penalty as a percentage of the largest possible reduction. By this measure, 13 hospitals improved their standing by more than 50%, but 75 hospitals did at least 50% worse.
Some experts, reacting to the new numbers, warn it may be time to re-evaluate the program, which has added new measures and increased penalties. Recent studies and leading safety experts point to the need to consider socio-economic factors, which they say cause hospitals in poor communities to be disproportionately penalized.