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Medicare fines record number of hospitals for excessive readmissions

For the third straight year hospitals are will be punished for excessive readmission rates, with penalties reaching up to three percent of Medicare bills. That is the highest fine in the history of the penalties, which were enacted with the Affordable Care Act.

MPR News reports that almost 20 percent of Medicare patients returned to the hospital within 30 days. “Boomerang patients” cost taxpayers an extra $26 billion, MPR reported.

Hospitals that had never faced fines before are now on Medicare’s list, and more were docked because of Medicare’s increasingly expansive list of tracked conditions. Hip and knee replacements an lung diseases were added to Medicare’s list of tracked conditions this year, MPR reported.

Generally, readmissions are good for hospital bottom lines but bad for patients, MPR reported. An overly excessive number, though, is bad for both.

Hospitals from 29 states were docked, some for infractions dating back as far as three years, according to MPR.

Dr. Stephen Jencks, a consultant who documented nationwide rising readmission rates, called the penalties a “really fairly modest step,” that “persuaded a lot of hospitals to talk in ways they simply were not talking 10 years ago.”

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