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Invited Commentary
August 2014

The Medicare Readmission Measure for Surgical Hospitalizations: Awful or Just Not Very Good?

Author Affiliations
  • 1Division of General Surgery, University Health Network, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  • 2Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
  • 3Institute of Health Policy, Management, and Evaluation, Department of Surgery, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
JAMA Surg. 2014;149(8):765. doi:10.1001/jamasurg.2014.50

H. L. Mencken’s observation that “there is always a well-known solution to every human problem—neat, plausible, and wrong”1 may well apply to health policy efforts to address the problem of unplanned hospital readmissions, which affect nearly one-fifth of Medicare beneficiaries admitted to hospitals and cost an estimated $17.4 billion in 2004.2 At face value, penalizing hospitals for readmissions as stipulated in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act makes sense; readmissions are associated with poor-quality care3 and can be reduced by enhanced hospital discharge programs.2