Senators introduce bill to account for socioeconomic status in readmissions penalty policy Last Updated: July 30, 2014
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Adding their voice to House lawmakers who have recently spoken out on the flaws with the hospital readmissions penalty program, a quartet of senators introduced a bill today that would require CMS to take into account the socioeconomic status of hospitals’ patients when calculating the penalties.

The Hospital Readmission Accuracy and Accountability Act, authored by Senators Manchin (D-WV), Roger Wicker (R-MS), Mark Kirk (R-IL) and Bill Nelson (D-FL), would require CMS to use Bureau of Census data that address, at minimum, the income, education level and poverty rate of patients served by the hospital in determining penalties in the Hospital Readmissions Reduction Program (HRRP). For discharges on or after October 1, 2019, CMS can use an alternative model to account for socioeconomic status following a public comment and rulemaking process.

“We must continue to hold our hospitals accountable for the quality of care they’re providing to Medicare patients, but we cannot let differences in income serve as an obstacle to improving health outcomes,” Manchin said in a press release.

Last week, a bipartisan group of House members sent a letter to CMS and HHS voicing concern that the program does not adjust for community factors that are often outside a hospital’s control.

Premier has long advocated for making changes to ensure that the HRRP is not negatively impacting hospitals serving a large share of vulnerable populations. Read more about Premier’s message to Congress on readmissions policies.