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Obama Signs Law with SES Risk Adjustment for Readmissions

The association and its members achieved a major advocacy victory today with President Obama’s signing of the 21st Century Cures Act, which requires, for the first time, socioeconomic risk adjustment of federal hospital readmissions measures.

“I’m confident it will lead to…better lives for millions of Americans,” Obama said during a White House signing ceremony. His signature follows the Senate’s Dec. 8 approval of the act by an overwhelming 94-5 vote. The House approved the package the previous week by a similarly large margin: 392-26.

The 21st Century Cures Act includes a provision that achieves a top priority for America’s Essential Hospitals: It mandates that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services risk adjust penalties in the Medicare Hospital Readmissions Reduction Program to account for the socioeconomic challenges of essential hospitals’ patients.

“With their vote, senators have helped level the playing field for essential hospitals, the backbone of the nation’s safety net,” association President and CEO Bruce Siegel, MD, MPH, said in a Dec. 8 statement praising the Senate’s action. “By risk adjusting readmissions measures that unfairly penalize hospitals for factors outside their control, the Cures Act will help preserve vital services in at-risk communities.”

The bill also includes a provision that provides relief to some hospitals affected by payment cuts to new hospital outpatient departments (HOPDs). Specifically, the bill allows HOPDs that were “mid-build” as of Nov. 2, 2015, to bill Medicare as if they already were open before enactment of the payment cuts.

Enactment of the socioeconomic status provision is the culmination of more than four years of work by America’s Essential Hospitals and its members.

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About the Author

Graziano is senior director of communications for America's Essential Hospitals.

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