ACA hospital readmission program did not increase patients' mortality risk

The ACA program that penalizes hospitals with higher-than-average readmission rates did not increase mortality risk for patients between 2008 and 2016, according to a study published Jan. 15 in The British Medical Journal. 

Researchers analyzed 2008-16 Medicare claims for patients 65 or older admitted to hospitals with heart failure, acute myocardial infarction or pneumonia. The study did not find evidence of increased mortality rates linked to the U.S. Hospital Readmissions Reduction Program, especially not among emergency department or observation patients.

"This study adds to the evidence that the readmission policy is safe and is not increasing the risk of death by turning away people who need to be re-hospitalized," Harlan Krumholz, MD, senior author, cardiologist and director of the New Haven, Conn.-based Yale Center for Outcomes Research and Evaluation, said in the news release.

Researchers noted a national trend toward increased mortality risk in heart failure patients' post-discharge period, but the increase began before the readmission policy was announced. Almost half of the heart patients who died after leaving the hospital were discharged directly to hospice, Rohan Khera, MD, lead author and clinical fellow at University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, said in the news release.

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