Post-Dispatch, August 26, 2011

Barnes-Jewish Hospital continues to struggle with high numbers of Medicare patients who return soon after they've been discharged, new federal data show. The hospital's performance is likely to trigger a loss of Medicare payments in coming years. The hospital, in the Central West End, is one of just three hospitals in the country to perform worse than the national average in readmissions within 30 days for three conditions -- heart attacks, heart failure and pneumonia -- for each of the last three years. The two other hospitals are Our Lady of the Resurrection in Chicago and Beth Israel Deaconess in Boston. At Barnes-Jewish, more than 28% of Medicare patients who were treated and released for heart failure were readmitted within a month, up from 26% in 2009. The national average is 24.8%. Medicare, the government health plan for people older than 65, plans to penalize hospitals that have higher-than-average readmission rates. Under health care reform, Barnes-Jewish and other hospitals could face up to a 3% reduction in Medicare payments, meaning millions of dollars, starting next year.
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