Hospital readmissions are bad for everyone.
They’re obviously bad for discharged patients. No one wants to leave the hospital, get worse instead of better and then have to be hospitalized again.
Readmissions are also bad for the hospitals involved, because they can be penalized by Medicare for a high readmission rate within 30 days of discharge.
In turn, readmissions are bad for nursing homes that have to send patients back to the hospital. Given their incentive to reduce readmissions, hospitals may not want to steer people to nursing homes that send back too many recently discharged patients.
But new efforts to improve care coordination among hospitals, nursing homes and other providers are succeeding in reducing readmission rates, experts say.
Georgia’s nursing homes and hospitals are collaborating more than ever to reduce readmissions, say officials with Georgia’s Quality Improvement Organization (QIO), a state-based group funded by Medicare to review medical care.
A big driver in this change has been the readmission penalties that hospitals now face. These penalties were created by the 2010 Affordable Care Act.
Jonathan Blum, deputy administrator of the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, told GHN recently that the penalties have forced hospitals and nursing homes to improve their coordination. full story
More than 900 U.S. nursing homes, including six in Georgia, have been listed by federal officials as not fully complying with a regulation to have automatic fire sprinklers in every patient area.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) sent a memo to state officials last week on the sprinkler rule compliance. It did not identify the nursing homes that are not fully sprinkler-equipped. The deadline for installation was Aug. 13.
In 2008, CMS issued a rule that the long-term care industry had five years to install the systems in the approximately 16,000 U.S. nursing homes, where more than 1 million Americans live.
The federal rules came in response to the deaths of 31 people in nursing home fires in Nashville, Tenn., and Hartford, Conn., in 2003.
After the deadly fires, “there was enormous pressure on CMS to respond,’’ said Alan Horowitz, an Atlanta attorney with law firm Arnall Golden Gregory who specializes in long-term health care issues.
Georgia’s record appears to be good compared with other states on the rate of compliance with the sprinkler regulation. full story
Rep. Hank Johnson
“It’s about people,” said U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson, a Georgia Democrat.
Johnson was referring to proposed legislation (H.R. 1507) to provide enhanced services for those affected by dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease. It’s the Health Outcomes, Planning, and Education Act, also known as the HOPE Act.
If passed, the bill would provide Medicare coverage for clinical diagnosis of Alzheimer’s and treatment planning, and would require documentation of evaluation and any care planning in an individual’s medical record. Johnson is an originating co-sponsor of the bill, which would amend title XVIII of the Social Security Act.
“Alzheimer’s is a devastating disease that not only robs patients of their essence, but has huge implications for their loved ones,” Johnson said.
Currently more than 5 million Americans suffer from Alzheimer’s disease, making it the sixth leading cause of death for those 65 and older in the United States. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, the cost of caring for those with Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia is expected to total about $203 billion in 2013, with the estimated cost increasing to $1.2 trillion (in today’s dollars) by mid-century.
In Georgia, there were 120,000 people with Alzheimer’s disease in 2010, and the number is expected to grow to 160,000 by 2025, according to a 2012 Alzheimer’s Association report. full story
Medicare will impose fines on 73 Georgia hospitals for excessive readmissions of patients within 30 days of discharge.
Kaiser Health News reported that 68 percent of eligible hospitals in the state received a penalty — roughly the national average.
In all, 2,225 hospitals nationally will have payments reduced for a year starting Oct. 1. Eighteen hospitals — though none in Georgia — will lose 2 percent, the maximum fine possible and double the current top penalty.
Another 154 will lose 1 percent or more of every payment for a patient stay, including three hospitals in Georgia: Elbert Memorial in Elberton; Coffee Regional in Douglas; and Crisp Regional in Cordele. full story
Five hospitals in Georgia are among 55 facilities in 21 states settling allegations of overcharging Medicare for a back procedure.
The overall $34 million settlement, announced Tuesday, involved a false claims case involving kyphoplasty, a procedure for treating spinal fractures that are frequently caused by osteoporosis.
The U.S. Department of Justice said in a press release that in many cases, kyphoplasty can be performed effectively as an outpatient procedure, avoiding the additional expense of a hospital admission. The settlements resolved allegations that the hospitals frequently billed Medicare for kyphoplasty procedures on a more costly inpatient basis.
All of the five Georgia hospitals were part of the HCA chain, though two are no longer operating as company facilities. full story