Hospitals blast Medicare payment proposal

The Premier healthcare alliance concurred.

"Particularly when hospitals are preparing for reimbursement cuts and simultaneously making large investments in accountable care and health information technology, now is not the time to take such a large percentage of income away from hospitals," said Blair Childs, senior vice president of Public Affairs.

The Obama administration is in tight spot as it seeks to work with hospitals to change the way Medicare pays for care while also keeping payments under control. The rule begins to lay the groundwork for a public-private partnership announced last week that seeks to reward hospitals that reduce preventable readmissions.

"The proposals CMS is making today reflect an underlying premise that we can improve the quality of and access to care while at the same time slowing the growth in health care spending," Medicare Administrator Donald Berwick said in a statement. "In fact, there is a growing body of evidence that improving care — focusing on the patient's needs, reducing unnecessary duplicate services, and avoiding costly mistakes and preventable healthcare acquired conditions — is key to reducing health care cost growth."

Tuesday's regulation proposes measures for rates of readmissions for three conditions — acute myocardial infarction (heart attack), heart failure and pneumonia; and it proposes a methodology that would be used to calculate excess readmission rates for the program, with more conditions possibly added later. The payment adjustments will apply to hospitals for discharges on or after Oct. 1, 2012.