Care Gaps Remain Despite Medicare Readmission Program Progress

Hospital Readmissions Reduction Program established through the Affordable Care Act found to penalize facilities that serve a large number of minority patients.

Black—white disparities in hospital readmission rates in the United States narrowed after the introduction of the Hospital Readmissions Reduction Program (HRRP), but hospitals that serve a large number of minority patients continue to disproportionately receive penalties for their readmission rates, a study published in Health Affairs said Monday.

The HRRP was established by CMS as part of the Affordable Care Act. Before the HRRP, there was evidence that black patients had, on average, 20% higher readmission rates than white patients, and that hospitals serving a higher proportion of black patients had higher readmission rates than other hospitals—even after taking into account patient complexity.

Previous evidence suggested that the HRRP may have helped lower readmission rates for all Medicare patients over time, but its impact on minority populations and the hospitals that serve them was unknown. In this study, researchers from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health compared trends in 30-day readmission rates among black and white patients and among minority-serving and other hospitals from 2007 to 2014.

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