As hospitals reduced readmissions for heart failure patients, their mortality rates increased, according to a recent JAMA study.
Modern Healthcare reports overall, the penalty program, established under the Affordable Care Act, has effectively motivated hospitals to change wasteful care practices and better manage populations. Readmissions have fallen as hospitals respond to penalties that can dock up to 3% of their Medicare payments.
But the tactics hospitals have adopted to avoid a penalty might not always be in the best interest of patients.
Health policy experts have pointed to flaws in the study’s methodology, but say it’s an important insight into how the financial incentives from the readmissions program can influence hospital behavior, and not always for the better.
Dr. Ashish Jha, a professor of health policy at the Harvard School of Public Health is quoted:
This program has gotten hospitals to focus on readmissions and a lot less on everything else. The big penalty for readmission rates has meant hospitals put less attention on reducing complications and on reducing mortality.
Learn about the results of the first five years of the Medicare Hospital Readmission Reduction Program in an Issue Brief by The Kaiser Family Foundation