KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

New Medicare Data Compare Hospitals Based On Readmissions

New data regarding hospital readmission rates have emerged "amid a national debate over how to reduce" these numbers, "which cost the federal government billions of dollars a year in Medicare reimbursements," the New York Times reports. The data, posted on Medicare's Hospital Compare Web site, examines the number of patients "readmitted to hospitals within a month of being discharged after treatment for heart attack, heart failure or pneumonia between July 2005 and June 2008."

"Hospitals in New York State are significantly worse than those elsewhere in the nation at limiting patients from having to return shortly after being treated for a major illness, according to federal data released on Thursday," the Times reports. Local hospital spokespeople said the density of poverty in the urban area contributed to the disparity, but officials also noted that some hospital that seem many poor patients actually performed better than major academic centers (Hartocollis, 7/9).

The Salt Lake Tribune reports, "[r]esearch shows that hospital readmissions are reducing the quality of health care while at the same time increasing costs, according to [the Medicare program]. On average, about one in five Medicare beneficiaries who is discharged from a hospital today will return within a month." In Utah, hospitals performed at about the national average, or better in some cases (Rosetta, 7/9).

One Dallas hospital, Baylor Heart and Vascular Hospital, did the best in the quality measures, the Dallas Morning News reports. That hospital, and others like it, are now being offered as examples. "If that kind of savings [from low readmissions] were applied around the country, $1.8 billion would be saved each year," the hospital's Chief Medical Officer said (Roberson, 7/10).

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