East Texas hospitals and health districts preparing for new Medicare fines

East Texas hospitals and health districts preparing for new Medicare fines

LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - The first day of October brings with it new fines for hospitals who discharge patients too soon as a part of President Obama's health care law to improve quality and save taxpayers money.

Medicare will begin fining hospitals that readmit too many patients, and East Texas health agencies have been preparing for the penalties.

Our goal is to get patients in the hospital, get them well, and get them out, so they don't have to come back," Casey Robertson, the CEO of Woodland Heights Medical Center, said.

Today, hospitals nationwide will be paying closer attention when it comes to discharging patients.

"If a patient is readmitted within 30 days with the same diagnosis then the hospital will not be paid for 2nd admission," Patricia Jones, the director of Memorial Health System of East Texas' community-based care, said.

According to the Associated Press, about two-thirds of hospitals serving Medicare patients will be hit with penalties averaging around $125,000. Jones said that the re-admission penalty didn't come as a surprise.

Health agencies in East Texas have been working together to make the transition a smooth one.

"We formed the Texas Forest County Collaborative over a year ago," Jones said.

The collaborative includes Memorial and Woodland Heights, both hospitals in Nacogdoches, and the Angelina County Health District.

For the first year, the penalty is capped at 1 percent of the hospital's Medicare payments.

"Patients that come into the hospital that are at risk of re-admission are identified at the front end, and then steps are taken to work with them through the process of treatment and then discharge," Robertson said.

Hospitals will only be measured on three medical conditions, heart attacks, heart failure, and pneumonia.

"It will expand over the coming months and years to being all calls so it won't matter what it is," Jones said.

The hospital collaborative has already applied for a grant for additional home health funding, so once patients are released, they can stay that way.

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