The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has long been working to reduce the number of hospital readmissions for Medicare patients. 


“Medicare—through Congressional direction and Administration initiatives—has started implementing incentives to reduce hospital readmissions. One example…is the Hospital Readmission Reduction Program (HRRP) which penalizes hospitals with relatively higher rates of Medicare readmissions.”  Kaiser Family Foundation, “Reducing Hospital U-Turns”


Research has shown that unplanned readmissions cost Medicare $17.4 billion in 2004 and that 20 percent of Medicare fee-for-service patients were readmitted within 30 days of discharge. According to CMS, racial and ethnic minority populations are more likely than their white counterparts to be readmitted within 30 days of discharge for chronic conditions, such as heart failure, heart attack, and pneumonia, among others. Why is that?  CMS says social, cultural, and language barriers contribute to these higher readmission rates.


CMS has released a new guide to preventing readmissions among communities of color in Medicare:

“This plan focuses on Medicare populations that experience disproportionately high burdens of disease, worse quality of care, and barriers to accessing care. For CMS, these populations include racial and ethnic minorities, sexual and gender minorities, persons with disabilities, as well as individuals living in rural areas. The CMS Equity Plan for Medicare was also developed with particular attention to disparities in chronic diseases such as diabetes, chronic kidney disease, and cardiovascular disease. Chronic conditions pose a significant human and financial burden, are prevalent in the Medicare population, and are likely to co-occur.”…CMS Equity Plan for Improving Quality in Medicare

Among the plan’s proposals are to:

·         Expand data Collection and Analysis

·         Evaluate Disparities and Integrate Solutions

·         Develop New Approaches to Reduce Disparities

·         Increase the Ability to Meet the Needs of Vulnerable Populations

·         Improve Communication and Language Access

·         Increase Physical Accessibility of Health Care Facilities

“CMS has an important opportunity and a critical role in preventing hospital readmissions while promoting health equity among diverse Medicare beneficiaries,” said Cara James, Director of CMS’s Office of Minority Health. “This Guide encourages action-oriented steps and solutions in achieving health equity, addresses reducing readmissions and focuses on our initiative of achieving better care, smarter spending, and healthier people throughout our health care system.”