Hospital Readmission Penalties Questioning The Legislation

Hospital Readmission Penalties: Are they Fair


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If you were in denial before you can’t be anymore.  Obamacare and the roll out of new healthcare overhauls associated with it are starting to take effect.  One of the more controversial elements of healthcare reform is the new Hospital Readmission Penalties which took effect in October of last year.  Hospitals are being hit with additional new costs when Patients have to readmit to the hospital for the same ailment they initially went in with.  So is this fair?  Lets look at the rationale for the legislation as well as the argument against enforcement.

Supporters of the legislation believe that the effort will begin to reduce “costly and unnecessary readmissions”, and there are now statistics supporting that theory.  According to the latest studies, medicare costs are beginning to shift in a downward direction.  But is the slow decline in Medicare cost worth the hefty fines hospitals could pay for readmitting patients?  Opponents say the regulation is a tax targeted at hospitals that tend to take care of the sickest patients, and those in certain socioeconomic demographics.  This isn’t so much a numbers debate as it is a moral one.  Who is right and who is wrong?

Government Protection vs. Personal Respobsibility

The moral quandary that faces legislators and regulators when dealing with the issues of hospital penalties is how much responsibility falls on the shoulders of the healthcare provider, and how much on the individual patient.  In order to avoid these fines, many hospitals have gone well beyond their healthcare responsibilities.  For example: providing transportation for follow-up visits, getting safe housing for patients or even just a hot meal to ensure they stay healthy.  But once they leave the Hospital, can a patient really still be the hospital’s responsibility?  Opponents of the regulation feel it’s a lose/lose situation and that no matter what, hospitals are incurring more cost.  Medicare has reported that it expects an additional $300 million dollars in revenues from these fines in 2013 alone.

It is clearly the responsibility of a hospital to try and bring each patient back to health, no question about it.  But where does the responsibility end?  Different individuals, hospitals and regulators will have differing answers. But eventually the answer may have a big impact on our healthcare system.

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