Bipartisan Group Urges Lower Readmission Penalties for Safety Net Hospitals

A bipartisan group of 34 U.S. Representatives, including six from Pennsylvania, sent a letter in June 2014 to CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner and HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell asking them to work with Congress to keep Medicare’s Hospital Readmission Reduction Program (HRRP) from hurting hospitals that primarily serve elderly, low-income patients, and “dual eligibles.”

According to Kaiser Health News (August 2013), among the safety net hospitals with the most low-income patients, 77 percent were penalized for readmissions, while only 36 percent of the hospitals with the fewest low-income patients were penalized.

“While the HRRP has incentivized hospitals to reduce readmissions, there are some factors outside of a hospital’s control that make it difficult for the patient to avoid readmission,” the bipartisan group said, citing a study by the Commonealth Fund that found that readmission rates were tied to community factors more so than hospital quality.

“Reducing readmissions cannot be placed squarely on the shoulders of the hospital,” the group maintained. “It is a shared responsibility that involves the hospital, the patient, social services professionals, and providers across the continuum of care.”

With the penalty set to increase from a two percent reduction to a three percent reduction on every patient stay payment, the group urged CMS to work with Congress to ensure the program is not negatively impacting hospitals that service dually-eligible beneficiaries.

The six members of Congress from Pennsylvania who signed the letter are Reps. Patrick Meehan, Glenn Thompson, Mike Kelly, Scott Perry, Lou Barletta, and Bill Shuster.