Nancy Pelosi once said we had to pass Obamacare to find out what was in it. And boy are we finding out:
An Obamacare program that aims to improve American health care may have an unintended side effect: penalizing hospitals that serve the sickest and poorest patients.
The Affordable Care Act penalizes hospitals that have high readmission rates, where patients come back within 30 days to deal with some complication of the initial procedure. The aim of that program was to encourage doctors to do the best job possible on the first hospital visit, improving patients’ experience and saving money by preventing a second trip.
But a new paper from three Harvard health-care experts suggests that the readmission program is penalizing hospitals for the type of patients they see. Hospitals that have high readmission rates tend to see patients who are less educated, more disabled, and more likely to suffer from depression — factors the Obamacare program doesn’t account for.
I suspect that you, like me, are shocked SHOCKED that a bill designed by politicians and wonks to exert control over a massive and complicated system didn’t work precisely as advertised. Keep in mind … this is one of Obamacare’s supposed big successes. They’ve touted the “huge” drop in readmissions (all of … 1%) as a sign of how awesome their reform is.
To be fair, penalizing hospitals for readmissions is not a completely stupid idea. Several insurance companies have been trying out programs to encourage better care. But the Obama people didn’t care for this kind of free-market innovation. To them, providers were greedy monsters doing poor care so they could charge more (remember Obama’s comment about amputating diabetic legs?) So they applied a ham-fisted program that has, on balance, made things work.
Well … at least we’ve seen insurance rates come down, right? Right?