Program Designed To Reduce Readmissions Imposed Significant Penalties on Hospitals Treating Disadvantaged Patients
Hospitals that treat large numbers of disadvantaged patients received significant financial penalties because they did not meet goals set by the Hospital Readmissions Reduction Program (HRRP), a part of the Affordable Care Act, an AHRQ study found. The analysis, published in the May issue of Health Affairs, found that financial penalties that hospitals endured under the HRRP limited the ability of those hospitals to engage in quality improvement efforts to reduce those penalties. The HRRP began imposing penalties in October 2012 on hospitals with higher-than-expected readmissions for heart attack, heart failure and pneumonia among fee-for-service Medicare beneficiaries. Previous research indicated that hospitals have been successful overall in reducing readmissions under the HRRP. This study found that in the first five years of the program, more than half of hospitals received penalties, which totaled $1.9 billion. But the penalty burden was greater among safety net hospitals that treated larger shares of Medicare or disadvantaged patients; were urban, large and for-profit; and had a major teaching component. Access the abstract.