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Readmit rates cost FL hospitals

Lower Medicare reimbursement rates are coming for hundreds of hospitals across the country and for 131 in Florida with “excess readmission” rates, according to analysis of CMS data by Kaiser Health News.

The Readmission Adjust Factor, which will be calculated by readmission rates of patients who are discharged after Oct. 1, can reduce the Medicare reimbursement payment to as low as 99 percent.

Nine hospitals around the state, including Florida Hospital in Orlando, will deal with a 1 percent gap caused by the penalty.

Even though half of the 22 facilities in the Florida Hospital system will be penalized under the Hospital Readmissions Reduction Program, hospital officials said care won't be affected.

"We should not have any sort of really material impact and that comes because of the size of the organization," said Rich Morrison, senior vice president of government affairs at Florida Hospital. "If we were in a community that wasn’t growing, or we were a smaller hospital, this would be much more difficult to deal with."

Morrison disagrees with how the number is determined, which takes into account all forms of readmission, even if the readmission has nothing to do with the patient's original hospital stay.  "At this juncture, I don’t think the measure of how they’re doing the reimbursements rate, and how they’re determining that number, is adequately understood to be able to make these kinds of economic sanctions," Morrison said.

Some experts worry that safety-net hospitals won't be able to absorb the extra costs as easily, but Medicare has asserted those hospitals perform as well as facilities that don't serve as many low-income patients.

See the list of how all of the hospitals in the state expect to be penalized here.

--Health News Florida is an independent online publication dedicated to journalism in the public interest.

Lottie Watts covers health and health policy for Health News Florida, now a part of WUSF Public Media. She also produces Florida Matters, WUSF's weekly public affairs show.