Our View: ObamaCare head-scratcher
Posted: October 4, 2012
As well we understand, provisions of the ObamaCare law will be enacted in layers, or like peels falling from an onion. One went into effect Monday — monetary penalties meted out to hospitals for Medicare inpatient readmissions deemed too soon after discharge — and, frankly, one aspect is so punitive that it has us scratching our heads.
OK, we grasp the animus behind such penalties, to encourage better care (especially of Medicare patients with heart and pulmonary problems) at a lower cost. But, in some instances, hospitals are to be held accountable — i.e., subject to penalty — for circumstances beyond their control.
Imagine this scenario: An elderly man suffers a mild attack, is taken to the hospital, spends the proper amount of time in the coronary wing relative to his condition, and is released. Three weeks later — or well within the 30-day period governed by the new policy — he returns to the hospital suffering from severe abdominal discomfort. He is having a gall bladder attack.
Here’s the punitive rub: Even though the man’s gall bladder woes have nothing to do with his previous hospitalization for heart problems, the hospital will still be held accountable — that is, a black mark on the penalty-producing ledger — merely because the man was readmitted within that 30-day window.
Is this fair? Is this equitable? There’s such a thing as holding hospitals feet to the fire, but this is ridiculous. The government is not just asking doctors to be healers and care-givers, but diviners as well.