Some Minn. hospitals penalized for readmission rate

At least two dozen Minnesota hospitals will have to forfeit a small fraction of their Medicare funding because patients had to be readmitted soon after discharge.

The federal health care law considers readmissions a sign that a hospital could do a better job at coordinating and following up on patient care and reducing costs as a result.

No Minnesota hospital faces the highest penalty of 1 percent of their Medicare funds. Mayo Clinic's Health System in Fairmont was the highest at 0.81 percent. Sanford Medical Center in Worthington and Fairview Ridges Hospital in Burnsville both face penalties of 0.43 percent.

Mayo is concerned about any unnecessary readmission, said Kevin Burns, regional director of public affairs for Mayo.

"Every patient deserves the best possible care, the very best comprensive treatment regardless of our cost to provide that treatment," he said.

The penalties are part of the federal health care overhaul's attempt to curb Medicare costs. Burns says Mayo does not know exactly how much the penalty will cost. The penalty was based on patients with three diagnoses: heart attack, heart failure and pneumonia.

Dan Anderson, president of Fairview's community hospitals, said the penalty will amount to about $100,000. He says the penalty is perplexing because the government recognized Fairview for its ability to improve care and reduce cost. But he says Fairview supports what Medicare is doing.

"No patient wants to be readmitted if they don't have to be and we don't want to have them there if we can figure out a way to help them avoid it," Anderson said.

Next year, the penalty for hospitals that have too many readmissions will increase to 2 percent next year.