Readmissions for Medicare patients fall for second year

Preventable readmissions for Medicare patients are on the decline as a result of the Affordable Care Act, according to a blog post from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).

After remaining consistently at 19 percent from 2007 to 2011, readmissions for Medicare beneficiaries fell to 18.4 percent in 2012, representing 70,000 fewer readmissions. The downward trend continued in 2013, according to the post, with preliminary claims data indicating that the readmission rate dropped below 18 percent in the first eight months of the year, with 130,000 fewer readmissions between January 2012 and August 2013.

The data also indicates the decline is consistent across the country, according to CMS. To get a better idea of movement in readmission rates, CMS compared readmission rates in local healthcare markets for the first eight months of the year to average rates from 2007 to 2011. In 232 of 306 local markets, or 76 percent, readmission rates this year were at least half a percentage point lower. Fewer than 10 percent of local markets experienced higher rates. On a state level, readmission rates declined in the District of Columbia and every state but Utah, which already had one of the lowest readmission rates in the country, according to the post.

"We can see that the decline in all-cause readmission rates that began in 2012 is continuing this year on a widespread basis," the post states. "While we continue to monitor and study these encouraging reductions, what is clear is that intense focus on reducing hospital readmissions through improved processes of care and new tools in the Affordable Care Act are having a demonstrably positive impact."

Data released in August indicated Medicare will fine two-thirds of U.S. hospitals in the second round of Medicare readmission penalties, although total readmission penalties will fall $53 million, FierceHealthcare previously reported.

To learn more:
- read the blog post