GW Hospital hit by Medicare fee

GW Hospital will be forced to absorb about $335,000 in Medicare costs this year because an above-average number of patients returned for medical attention within a month of release.

Six District hospitals – including GW’s – incurred the penalty, with only Sibley Memorial Hospital in Northwest D.C. dodging the cuts.

The Medicare program docks hospitals if the readmittance rate for patients suffering from heart attacks, heart failures and pneumonia within 30 days of discharge exceeds the national rate, since the passage of the Affordable Care Act in 2010. Cuts went into effect Monday.

D.C. was the third hardest-hit region in the country by the Medicare reimbursement cuts, behind New Jersey and New York.

Medicare guarantees health insurance to elderly patients above the age of 65 and to younger patients with disabilities.

Barry Wolfman, chief executive officer and managing director of GW Hospital, declined to comment on the number of readmissions the hospital saw last year.

The harshest cut possible for Medicare reimbursements was 1 percent for fiscal year 2013. The GW Hospital received a 0.65 percent cut.

That means if a patient racks up a $10,000 bill for their stay, rather than receive the full amount back, GW Hospital will only be reimbursed $9,935 by Medicare.

The maximum penalties get harsher over the next few years, increasing to 2 percent in October 2013 and 3 percent a year later.

Wolfman said the hospital is taking steps to prevent readmission.

He said the hospital is educating patients better about their medication regimens, making rounds multidisciplinary so as to identify patients at risk of readmission and partnering with local community centers and nursing facilities.

“Like all hospitals, we are on a journey of improvement, and in collaboration with our physicians we are taking steps to reduce readmissions to our Hospital,” Wolfman said in an email.

Nearly one in five patients on Medicare return to hospitals within 30 days of being released, costing the country more than $26 billion a year, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.

While only 8.3 percent of hospitals nationwide saw the maximum reduction, more than 57 percent saw cuts of some kind. The cuts at more than 2,000 hospitals nationwide totaled $280 million, according to Kaiser Health News.

Howard University Hospital received the maximum 1 percent penalty, translating into an estimated $388,788 for this coming year. MedStar Washington Hospital Center, which faced a 0.77 percent cut, will likely see $1.2 million decrease in funding because they serve 662 more patients at a given time.

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