September 13, 2017

Effect of Medicare’s Hospital Readmission Reduction Program on surgical readmissions

By: Judy Mathias

Editor’s Note

From 2008 to 2014, rates of postoperative readmissions declined for both Hospital Readmission Reduction Program targeted procedures (total hip and total knee replacements)–from 6.8% to 4.8%–and nontargeted procedures (colectomy, lung resection, abdominal aortic aneurysm repair, coronary artery bypass graft, aortic valve replacement, and mitral valve repair)–from 17.1% to 13.4%, this study finds.

The rate of reduction was most prominent after announcement of the program between 2010 and 2012. During the same time period, length of stay decreased for targeted (3.6 to 2.8 days) and nontargeted procedures (10.4 to 8.4 days).

There was no correlation between reduction in readmissions and use of observation-only admissions or discharge to skilled nursing facilities.

There appears to be an anticipatory effect and a spillover effect to the Hospital Readmission Reduction Program’s financial penalties on hospitals with higher than expected rates of readmissions, the authors say.


Objective: To understand the impact of the Hospital Readmission Reduction Program on both future targeted and nontargeted surgical procedures. Background: The Hospital Readmission Reduction Program, established under the Affordable Care Act in March of 2010, placed financial penalties on hospita…

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