TUPELO • Ten Northeast Mississippi hospitals will lose a percentage of their Medicare payments in the coming year because of high readmission rates.
In the region, the penalties range as high as 2.34 percent for Magnolia Regional Health Center in Corinth to .03 percent for North Mississippi Medical Center-West Point, based on a database compiled by Kaiser Health News from Medicare data.
The readmission penalties are a component of the Affordable Care Act and aim to reduce the number of patients who return to the hospital within a month. The goal is to reduce expensive hospital admissions and link payment to quality care. The maximum penalty for hospital readmissions is 3 percent.
In Mississippi, 51 hospitals were penalized including University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson, Forrest General Hospital in Hattiesburg and Delta Regional Medical Center in Greenville.
No Mississippi hospitals were assessed for patient safety penalties for having high rates of complications, which would have cost them 1 percent of Medicare payment.
Nationally, 83 percent of general hospitals assessed – 2,583 of the 3,129 – were penalized. The average penalty is .71 percent, according to the Kaiser Health News analysis.
Kaiser Health News estimated the penalties will cost hospitals $563 million. Slightly more hospitals saw an increase in penalty than for the 2020 fiscal year compared to the 2019 fiscal year.
Medicare specifically looks at readmission rates for four conditions and two procedures: heart attack, COPD, heart failure, pneumonia, heart bypass surgery and total joint replacements for hips and knees to track readmission rates.
The second admission doesn’t have to be related to the initial condition or procedure, but Medicare does not penalize hospitals for scheduled second admissions.
As part of the efforts to reduce readmissions, hospitals have increased efforts to make sure patients are able to get the medications and follow-up appointments they need.
Magnolia Regional is facing the highest readmission penalty in the state for the 2020 fiscal year.
“Our organization is aware and addressing the Medicare readmission issue, which many rural community hospitals are currently struggling with,” said Magnolia Regional chief executive officer John Harding, chief executive officer. “... We are actively working and implementing improvement methods to ensure that the patients we serve receive the highest quality care possible.”
OCH Regional Medical Center in Starvkille, North Mississippi Medical Center-Gilmore Amory, Baptist Memorial-North Mississippi in Oxford, Alliance Healthcare in Holly Springs, Baptist Memorial-Union County in New Albany and NMMC-Tupelo have readmission penalties between .30 and 1.20 percent.
Baptist Memorial-Booneville, NMMC-Iuka and NMMC-West Point have penalties under .20 percent.
Additionally, Tupelo-based North Mississippi Health Services had its Eupora hospital assessed penalties. In all, five of its seven hospitals had penalties between .03 and .76 percent.
Memphis-based Baptist Memorial Health Care, which has 18 general hospitals in its system, had two other Mississippi hospitals outside 16-county North Mississippi region assessed penalties. It had five others in Tennessee and Arkansas assessed penalties.