Medicare fines over hospitals' readmitted patients

WASHINGTON (AP) - Starting today, Medicare will start fining hospitals that have too many patients readmitted within 30 days of discharge because of complications.

The penalties are part of a broader push under President Barack Obama's health care law to improve quality while also trying to save taxpayers money.

The government estimates that some 2,200 facilities will be hit with penalties averaging around $125,000 per facility this coming year. That's about two-thirds of the hospitals that service Medicare patients.

Industry officials say they have misgivings about being liable for circumstances beyond their country. They also say that facilities serving low-income people, including many major teaching hospitals, are much more likely to be fined, raising questions of fairness.

Consumer advocates say Medicare's nudge to hospitals is long overdue and not nearly stiff enough.

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