The federal government is now using its financial muscle to discourage readmissions. Medicare last month began levying financial penalties against 2,217 hospitals it says have had too many readmissions. Of those hospitals, 307 will receive the maximum punishment, a 1% reduction in Medicare's regular payments for every patient over the next year, federal records show. Medicare's spending reached $556 billion this year. The readmission penalties will recoup about $300 million this year, but the goal is to pressure hospitals to pay attention to what happens to their patients after they walk out the door.