By Vicki Needham - 10/04/14 07:22 PM EDT
Medicare is fining a record number of hospitals because they readmitted too many patients within 30 days for more treatment, according to federal records released this week.
During the next year, 2,610 hospitals will see their reimbursement levels reduced and 39 hospitals will be hit with the largest penalty allowed, according to Kaiser Health News.
Readmissions rates are dropping but hospitals are still making adjustments as the penalty system begins its third year.
About 75 percent of all hospitals that fall under the program will have to pay anywhere from a hundredth of a percent to the maximum of 3 percent.
While 39 hospitals will pay the 3 percent maximum, another 496 will be lose at least 1 percent of their Medicare payments.
The fines cover readmissions on previous previously treated patients made between July 2010 through June 2013.
So from Oct. 1 through Sept. 30, 2015, those hospitals will see reduced payments for every Medicare patient stay, not just reductions for those who are readmitted.
The fines are expected to amount to about $428 million, according to Medicare estimates.
More than 1,400 hospitals are exempt from the penalties, including some cancer, psychiatric and other critical care facilities.
About 18 percent of Medicare patients hospitalized last year were readmitted within a month, amounting to about 2 million people and $26 billion in costs for Medicare.
Of that amount, about $17 billion stems from patients that could possibly avoid going back into the hospital within a month.
More hospitals — 433 more — were fined this year because Medicare added a couple of new categories including knee and hip replacements.