The majority of the nation’s hospitals are being penalized by Medicare for having patients frequently return within a month of discharge, combined losses total $420 million on the year. In the fourth year of federal readmission penalties, 2,592 hospitals will receive lower payments for every Medicare patient that stays in the hospital (readmitted or not) beginning in October 2015. The Hospital Readmissions Reduction Program, created by the Affordable Care Act, was designed to keep hospitals more accountable for patient care decisions after discharge. Since the fines began, national readmission rates have dropped, but roughly one of every five Medicare patients sent to the hospital ends up returning within a month, no credit is given to hospitals that decrease their individual readmission rates year over year. A Kaiser Health News analysis of the records found that all but 209 of the hospitals penalized in this round were also punished last year.
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