Medicare isn't kidding when it says it wants to reduce hospital readmissions within 30 days ofdischarge—one of the costliest and most preventable line items inhealth care spending. The agency has set standards for hospitalsthat they must either meet or pay penalties for missing. And, itappears, hospitals still aren't getting the message.

Ever since the Hospital Readmission Rate Program (created aspart of the Affordable Care Act) took effect four years ago,hospitals have paid big bucks for failing to pay attention to thiskey indicator of efficiency.

This year, Kaiser Health News reports, nearly 2,600 hospitalswere penalized under the law, coughing up $420 million infines.

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Dan Cook

Dan Cook is a journalist and communications consultant based in Portland, OR. During his journalism career he has been a reporter and editor for a variety of media companies, including American Lawyer Media, BusinessWeek, Newhouse Newspapers, Knight-Ridder, Time Inc., and Reuters. He specializes in health care and insurance related coverage for BenefitsPRO.