CMS Reports Hospital Readmission Rates Declining Under Affordable Care Act

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A recent CMS news release reported that Affordable Care Act reforms are leading to lower hospital readmission rates for Medicare beneficiaries. Hospital readmission can be an indicator of poor care coordination or low-quality care. Readmission are also costly—CMS reports spending $17.8 billion a year on avoidable readmissions.

The Hospital Readmissions Reduction Program (the “Program”) is one of several initiatives contained in the Affordable Care Act aimed at slowing the growth of healthcare costs and improving the quality of patient care. The Program reduces payments to hospitals with high rates of readmissions within 30 days of discharge.

According to a recent report issued by CMS, the Program is yielding positive results. The hospital readmission rate for Medicare beneficiaries held steady at 19 percent from 2007 to 2011. CMS reports that the rate fell to 18.5 percent in 2012 and is averaged at less than 18 percent for the first eight months of 2013. In 2013, readmission rates decreased in 49 states and the District of Columbia. The only state that did not see a decrease was Utah, which already had one of the lowest readmission rates in the country.

The CMS report states: “While we continue to monitor and study these encouraging reductions, what is clear is that intense focus on reducing hospital re-admissions through improved processes of care and new tools in the Affordable Care Act are having a demonstrably positive impact.”