Medicare fines record number of hospitals for readmissions

Medicare is fining 2,610 hospitals for high readmission rates. This is a record number of hospitals penalized under the Hospital Readmissions Reduction Program, now in its third year.

The 2,610 total represents a 433 hospital increase from last year. Hospitals that were penalized will receive lower payments for every Medicare patient stay from Oct. 1 through Sept. 30, 2015, according to Kaiser Health News. The fines will total around $428 million and are based on readmissions from July 2010 through June 2013.

Additionally, penalties this year are harsher than last year — hospitals with the highest readmission rates will lose 3 percent of each payment, while last year that number was 2 percent.

Thirty-nine hospitals will have their payments lowered by 3 percent, including specialty surgical hospitals, small community hospitals and Pennsylvania Hospital in Philadelphia, a major teaching hospital and the oldest hospital in the nation, according to KHN.

Other major hospitals will have their Medicare payments lowered by 1 percent or more, including Northwestern Memorial Hospital and Rush University Medical Center in Chicago and some members of major systems like of Rochester, Minn.-based Mayo Clinic and Geisinger Health System in Danville, Pa.

According to KHN, a contributing factor to the increased number of penalties is Medicare's addition of two new readmission categories: patients undergoing elective hip or knee replacements and patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

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