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Frequent fliers

Need to Know looks at an element of the healthcare reform package designed to improve care for the elderly once they have been released from the hospital. The idea is simple: Medicare payments to hospitals would be withheld, if older patients are readmitted too often, too soon. The plan is to encourage more coordinated care once a patient gets home.

The new policy is designed to combat “excess readmissions.” It went into effect this past October as part of the Affordable Care Act – meant to save the government more than a quarter billion dollars just over the next year.  Since 2010, the federal government has been keeping track of readmissions rates at more than 4700 and posting that information online.

They’re looking to find if patients are readmitted within thirty days for three specific conditions: heart attack, heart failure and pneumonia.  If a hospital’s readmissions rate is higher than the national average, it will face penalties.  Such hospitals will be penalized  up to  1% penalty of their medicare reimbursements.

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