New Medicare law could cost hospitals millions - WBTV 3 News, Weather, Sports, and Traffic for Charlotte, NC

New Medicare law could cost hospitals millions

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CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - If you or a loved one notice extra attention leaving the hospital, it's now part of the plan. The goal is to send someone home and keep him there in good health.

If the patient returns within 30 days because of a complication, the hospital could lose reimbursement money from Medicare depending on the number of patients readmitted.

The revolving door hospital door is a huge problem. Readmissions cost Medicare $17.5 billion a year. The agency says one out of five patients come back within 30 days.

Locally, Carolinas Medical Center and Presbyterian Hospital are among the 2200 hospitals nationwide being evaluated. The idea is to save money and increase quality of care.

"This is a good thing. We see Charlotte's most vulnerable," said Donald Jonas, Executive Director of Care Ring. His agency helps at-risk people find better healthcare and improve their quality of living. Care Ring's clients are those most likely to be re-admitted to hospitals.

"Potentially we could be a solution for the hospitals," said Jonas, referring to the programs and resources they offer. He said the challenge for hospitals and those in the medical community will be to find and sustain on-going care for those patients.

Part of the concern for hospitals is that they can't control what happens when a patient leaves. The fairness issues is one critique from the North Carolina Hospital Association

"I think that is a concern," said Don Dalton with the NCHA. "Each hospital serves a unique community," he said referring to the challenges more rural and urban areas face.

Kaiser Health News found the hospitals losing the most Medicare reimbursements serve high poverty areas.

The NCHA says avoiding penalties means more time and money spent helping those patients succeed at home.

"Hospital reimbursement is like a balloon. When one area is squeezed, something else has to stick out more," said Dalton.

Both CHS and Presbyterian have been working to prepare and say reducing re-admissions is a top priority.

It means more communication at every level, more community-based health. In other words, not just taking care of someone and declaring him well, then letting him go.

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