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Senators Wish to Revamp Readmissions Program

June 20, 2014
by Gabriel Perna
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The mandatory Hospital Readmissions Reduction Program that has many healthcare IT leaders on their toes could get a revamp, a bipartisan group of Senators have their way.
U.S. Senators Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Roger Wicker (R-MS), Mark Kirk (R-IL) and Bill Nelson (D-FL) recently introduced the Hospital Readmission Accuracy and Accountability Act, which would revamp the original program to ensure hospitals that serve low-income populations aren't penalized as harshly. It would require the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to account for patient socio-economic status when calculating risk-adjusted readmissions penalties. 
Readmissions is typically higher among low-income patients, due to lack of support outside the hospital, cultural and linguistic challenges, homelessness, illiteracy, and poor access to auxiliary healthcare services. The four Senators say the revamped act would go a long way in assisting hospitals that serve these patients. 
“We must continue to hold our hospitals accountable for the quality of care they’re providing to Medicare patients, but we cannot let differences in income serve as an obstacle to improving health outcomes,” Senator Manchin said in a statement. “Hospitals serving disproportionate numbers of disadvantaged, low-income patients will have higher rates of readmissions, even when they provide high-quality, patient-focused care. Failing to recognize this reality has led to unfair penalties at many rural hospitals in West Virginia and around the country, which is why we need to reform this program immediately."
The revamped act was sponsored by the American Hospital Association and other provider-based organizations. 

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