Penalizing Everything We Like

The problem:

One in five Medicare patients, for example, returns to the hospital within 30 days. Over all, readmissions cost the federal government an estimated $17 billion a year.

One hospital's solution:

Nicollet Health Services, a hospital and clinic system based in St. Louis Park, Minn. started tackling the readmission problem four years ago, spending as much as $750,000 annually on more nurses and on sophisticated software to track heart failure patients after they left the hospital. It reduced readmissions for such patients to only 1 in 25, down from nearly 1 in 6…… The effort saved Medicare roughly $5 million a year.

Medicare's response:

As part of a Medicare experiment to reduce readmissions, Park Nicollet earned a bonus of $247,000 in 2008 – but that payment equaled only about a third of the cost of running the program that year.

The hospital's response:

Park Nicollet, which a few years ago had 640 patients enrolled in the program, has reduced enrollment to 380 – the patients at highest risk of being readmitted.

Comments (2)

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  1. Ken says:

    This is why we are unlikely to get the efficiencies that Obama keeps talking about until we first reform Medicare.

  2. Bret says:

    At least Medicare is consistent. High qualilty, low cost care is penalized almost everywhere.