LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) - The federal government will now slap hospitals who readmit too many patients under Medicare with a fine. Arkansas Surgeon General, Joe Thompson says the state is ready for the new regulation.
Through these penalties the government wants to enhance the quality of health care and lower the number of hospital visits. Medicare will start fining hospitals that have too many patients readmitted within 30 days of discharge due to complications. The penalties are part of President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act and an effort to improve quality while also trying to save taxpayers money. Arkansas Surgeon General, Joe Thompson believes the state is ready for the new regulation, because of its performance-based pay system.
"I think clearly it's going to get hospital's attentions. I think in our state we have teams working together, where in other states it's going to be a big negative. This is going to be an opportunity for us to use our payment improvement initiative to reward hospitals that are doing well. I think it offers a needed insight into what's wrong with the fee for service system that pays every time somebody is hospitalized," says Thompson.
The government estimates about two-thirds of the hospitals serving Medicare patients, or more than 2-thousand facilities across the U.S., will be hit with penalties averaging around $125-thousand.
"Keep people from be rehospitalized within thirty days.">
Thompson agrees with the idea of making health care, more efficient, but he's not sure about the proposed penalty method that will be handed down from Medicare.
"The federal government as it unfortunately does too many times takes a hammer when we need to have a more elegant approach. In Arkansas I think we have taken a more elegant approach and it is going to bear fruit. I think we will see improvements in our system before this penalty provokes improvements in other state systems," says Thompson.
The government gave hospitals a year to improve. Now it estimates about two-thirds of the hospitals serving Medicare patients will be hit with penalties averaging around $125-thousand dollars. Thompson says Arkansas needed a kick start.
"Last year, one in four was re-hospitalized within thirty days," says Thompson.
Those numbers are from congestive heart failure patients. One of the diseases Medicare will track, along with heart attacks and pneumonia. Thompson commends strong participation in the state's new incentive payment system.
"Reward those who keep the patient from needing to come back. That's both better quality for the patient, it's better efficiency for the system and it helps us save cost," says Thompson.