A paradox of American health care is that hospitals are sometimes rewarded for doing things badly.
Patients who are discharged, for example, shouldn't have to come right back because they got worse after getting home. But if they do come back, hospitals benefit because they can fill an empty bed and bill for more care.
The federal government says, in fact, that Medicare alone pays $17.4 billion a year for unnecessary return visits.
Starting today, America's hospitals will find that their checks from Medicare are a little bit lighter.
As part of the government's biggest effort yet at paying for performance, Medicare is withholding 1 percent of its regular hospital payments and putting that money into a fund to reward hospitals that score well on 20 different quality measures.
Separate appearances Friday by President Obama and Rep. Paul Ryan before an AARP meeting in New Orleans proved that the third rail of American politics, Medicare and Social Security collectively, is still very much electrified.
Speaking to a supremely friendly audience via live video feed from Virginia, where he was campaigning, Obama drew repeated applause and cheers with promises to defend Medicare and Social Security from Republican proposals that he said threaten the entitlement programs' ability to deliver the kind of benefits seniors have become accustomed to.
Originally published on Wed September 12, 2012 11:31 am
The health care overhaul law makes it easier for most people with private insurance to get the vaccines they need without going into their pockets for a copay. Medicare beneficiaries don't get the quite same sweet deal, though.