Medicare Penalties Will Hurt Vulnerable Patients with COPD

Experts say that new polices regarding hospital readmissions for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) will penalize at-risk patients. Since 2012, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has reduced payments to hospitals that exhibit excessive readmission rates for conditions like heart failure, heart attack, and pneumonia. Recently, they added elective hip and knee replacements and chronic lung disease to this list. Poor or medically complex patients are at a higher risk for readmissions because of an assortment of socioeconomic and health factors. Many are seen at teaching hospitals and “safety-net” hospitals, which will bear the brunt of the new guidelines. The experts explain that no interventions are known to effectively reduce COPD readmissions so it’s unclear what a hospital can do to prevent them. Their findings suggest that the policy should be changed due to penalties that target hospitals that care for vulnerable patients.

American Journal of Respiratory Critical Care Medicine, November 2014