Wrong-incentive health care

Health care pontificators like to talk about incentives.  Who can blame them/us?  Health care pays its players (or, all too often, doesn’t pay them) to do some funny things.

Today’s example is from The New York Times.  Background info, “One in five Medicare patients, for example, returns to the hospital within 30 days. Over all, readmissions cost the federal government an estimated $17 billion a year.”  Wrong-incentive health care:

Medical providers all too familiar with the financial double bind include Park Nicollet Health Services, a hospital and clinic system based in St. Louis Park, Minn. Park Nicollet started tackling the readmission problem four years ago, spending as much as $750,000 annually on more nurses and on sophisticated software to track heart failure patients after they left the hospital. It reduced readmissions for such patients to only 1 in 25, down from nearly 1 in 6.

But the reduction has been a losing proposition. Although the effort saved Medicare roughly $5 million a year, Park Nicollet is not paid to provide the follow-up care. Meanwhile, fewer returning hospital patients mean lower revenue for Park Nicollet.

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