The mandatory federal pay-for-performance Hospital Readmissions Reduction Program (HRRP) was created to decrease 30-day hospital readmissions by instituting accountability and stimulating quality care and coordination, particularly during care transitions. The HRRP has changed the landscape of hospital readmissions and reimbursement within the United States by imposing substantial Medicare payment penalties on hospitals with higher-than-expected readmission rates. However, the HRRP has been controversial since its inception, particularly in the field of heart failure. Proponents argue that it has reduced national readmission rates, in part by raising awareness and investment in mechanisms to better assist patients during discharge and transitions; opponents contend that it unfairly penalizes hospitals for issues beyond their control, has unintended negative consequences due to incentivizing readmission over survival, that it encourages "gaming" the system, was not tested before implementation, and that it does not specify how hospitals can improve their performance. This paper incorporates the diverse, nuanced, and sometimes divergent interpretations presented during a multifaceted expert clinician discussion regarding the HRRP and heart failure; in cases in which consensus opinions were achieved, they are presented, including regarding potential new iterations of the HRRP for the future. Potential improvements include more comprehensive incorporation of outcomes into the HRRP measure and better risk adjustment to improve equality and fairness.
Keywords: 30-day readmission; HRRP; Medicare; heart failure.
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