Readmission penalty – the “passenger” speeding ticket

Medicare is cracking down on hospital readmissions and beginning in October hospitals will have their Medicare reimbursements reduced by as much as 1 percent.  It’s well documented that nearly 1 in 5 Medicare beneficiaries is readmitted within a month of a hospital stay so the hope is hospitals will do all they can to make sure patients receive the “after care” they need. 

I can understand the reason for the penalty but I’m not sure it’s targeting the right group.

Think about this.  You are in a car, you’re the passenger.  Your friend is driving 15 miles over the speed limit, you’ve encouraged your friend to slow down several times but he ignores your suggestion.  Your friend gets pulled over and the policeman writes a ticket and hands the ticket to you and explains that you are responsible to pay the ticket – the passenger – it hardly seems fair does it.

Hospitals are like the passenger.  Hospitals do not control when a patient gets sick, hospitals do not control when a patient is admitted, hospitals do not control when a patient is discharged – a physician makes admission and discharge calls.  A physician directs care, and he or she should, so you may be thinking that the physician should be penalized – not so fast.

As great as physicians are they are not miracle workers and the human body is complex.  It’s not fair to think that a patient can always be cured by one hospital stay.  A physician can not force a patient to fill a prescription, follow a diet, stop smoking or a handful of other things that may prevent a patient from being readmitted. 

I understand health care, especially hospital care, as much as anyone and I can tell you that I would much rather go to a hospital with a low mortality rate than a hospital with a low readmission rate and many hospitals with low mortality rates are going to be penalized by the new rule.

I’m not sure the penalty is gong to reach the desired result.  For health care to be effective there’s shared responsibility between hospitals, providers and patients but in the case of the readmission penalty there’s only one party responsible for the “ticket”.

About Craig Thompson

I am a young professional with two great sons, and I work in the healthcare setting. I am employed in hospital administration and serve as Chief Executive Officer at Golden Valley Memorial Healthcare in Clinton, Missouri. At GVMH we care for our families, friends and neighbors. We're committed to providing the safest, friendliest and most compassionate care to all we serve.
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1 Response to Readmission penalty – the “passenger” speeding ticket

  1. Brenda Jones says:

    Very well said.

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