Reducing Rehospitalizations Can Cut Medicare Costs

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<p>One of the biggest health care challenges facing Congress is avoiding cutting Medicare's physician fees while controlling costs for the program. In an op-ed published today in the <a href="… Globe,</a> Commonwealth Fund board member Robert Pozen and Commonwealth Fund senior vice president Cathy Schoen suggest a practical way to save Medicare billions of dollars--by preventing avoidable hospital readmissions.<Br><Br>According to recent <a href="/publications/fund-reports/2008/jul/why-not-the-best--results-from-the-national-scorecard-on-u-s--health-system-performance--2008
">Commonwealth Fund research,</a> 18 percent of Medicare patients were readmitted to the hospital within 30 days; rates varied widely from area to area. And a Medicare Payment Advisory Commission study found that 75 percent of all 30-day readmissions in Medicare were potentially preventable.<Br><Br>In the op-ed, Pozen and Schoen recommend that Congress create incentives for decreasing complications such as hospital-acquired infections; improving communication during the discharge process, particularly about medications; and monitoring patients after discharge by having cardiac patients, for example, call in to report on health indicators like swelling.<Br><Br>Congress should require hospitals to publicly disclose their readmission rates, the authors say, as well as reward hospitals with lower readmission rates with bonus Medicare payments, and pay those with high readmissions lower Medicare rates.<br><Br>"With the right incentives in place, Medicare should generate over 100 billion in savings over the next decade by bringing the high-cost areas down to the national average on 30-day hospitalizations," the authors say.</p>