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Medicare Program Narrows Racial Disparities in Readmissions

However, gaps remain between whites, blacks at minority-serving hospitals and others

WEDNESDAY, April 4, 2018 (HealthDay News) — Medicare’s Hospital Readmissions Reduction Program is associated with a narrowing of racial disparities in hospital readmissions, according to a study published in the April issue of Health Affairs.

José F. Figueroa, M.D., M.P.H., from Harvard University in Boston, and colleagues compared trends in 30-day readmission rates for congestive heart failure, acute myocardial infarction, and pneumonia among non-Hispanic whites versus non-Hispanic blacks, and among minority-serving hospitals versus others.

The researchers found that during the penalty-free implementation period (April 2010 to September 2012), readmission rates improved over the pre-implementation period (January 2007 to March 2010) for both whites and blacks. Over the study period, there was a significantly greater decline among blacks than among whites. However, after penalties began, readmission improvements slowed for both races. Similarly, minority-serving hospitals saw greater reductions in readmissions than other hospitals.

“Despite the narrowing of the two race-based gaps after announcement of the Hospital Readmissions Reduction Program, both persist,” the authors write. “It remains to be seen whether new policy efforts will narrow these gaps and reduce the disproportionately high penalties that minority-serving hospitals face.”

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