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The HRRP program penalizes hospitals up to 3 percent of every Medicare dollar for excessive repeat stays. (Photo: Shutterstock)

A U.S. government program meant to improve medical care and cut costs by penalizing hospitals that repeatedly readmit people with heart failure may have instead increased the risk that the patients would die, a new study suggests.

The policy, called the Hospital Readmissions Reduction Program, was created in 2010 under Obamacare as one of several ways to use Medicare’s immense buying power to improve care. Under the program, hospitals were reimbursed less when heart failure patients were readmitted within a month.

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