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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Harvard: Medicare Program Linked with Reduced Black-white Disparities in Hospital Readmissions

A Medicare program that penalizes hospitals for high readmission rates was associated with a narrowing of readmission disparities between black and white patients and between minority-serving hospitals and other hospitals in the U.S., according to a new study from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

The study also found that, in spite of the reductions in disparities, black-white gaps still persisted, and that minority-serving hospitals — which disproportionately care for black Medicare patients — continued to be more likely to be penalized by the Medicare program.

The study was published April 2, 2018 in Health Affairs.

Medicare’s Hospital Readmissions Reduction Program (HRRP) was established in 2012 as part of the Affordable Care Act.

In the new study, Harvard Chan School researchers found that, prior to the HRRP era (January 2007 – March 2010), readmissions rates were relatively flat or slightly increasing for both white and black patients. During the HRRP implementation phase (April 2010 – September 2012) when hospitals knew that readmission penalties would soon begin, readmission rates improved both for blacks and whites, declining on average 0.45 percent per quarter for black patients and 0.36 percent per quarter for white patients. In the period after HRRP penalties were introduced (October 2012 – December 2014), improvements in 30-day readmission rates slowed.

Overall, black patients’ 30-day readmission rates fell from a high of 24.5 percent in 2010 to 18.9 percent in 2014, while white patients’ rates fell from a high of 22.5 percent to 17.7 percent. Read more