Medicare's Hospital Acquired Condition Reduction Program Disproportionately Affects Minority-serving Hospitals: Variation by Race, Socioeconomic Status, and Disproportionate Share Hospital Payment Receipt

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Objective:To assess whether a hospital's percentage of Black patients associates with variations in FY2017 overall/domain-specific Hospital Acquired-Condition Reduction Program (HACRP) scores and penalty receipt. Differences in socioeconomic status and receipt of disproportionate share hospital payments (a marker of safety-net status) were also assessed.Summary of Background Data:In FY2015, Medicare began reducing payments to hospitals with high adverse event rates. Concern has been expressed that HACRP penalties could adversely affect minority-serving hospitals, leading to reductions in resources and exasperation of disparities among hospitals with the greatest need.Methods:100% Medicare FFS claims from 2013 to 2014 identified older adult inpatients, aged ≥65 years, presenting for 8 common surgical conditions. Multilevel mixed-effects regression determined differences in FY2017 HACRP scores/penalties among hospitals managing the highest decile of minority patients.Results:A total of 695,775 patients from 2923 hospitals were included. As a hospital's percentage of Black patients increased, climbing from 0.6% to 32.5% (lowest vs highest decile), average HACRP scores also increased, rising from 5.33 to 6.36 (higher values indicate worse scores). Increases in HACRP penalties did not follow the same stepwise increase, instead exhibiting a marked jump within the highest decile of racial minority-serving extent (45.7% vs 36.7%; OR [95% CI]: 1.45[1.42–1.47]). Similar patterns were observed for high disproportionate share hospital (OR [95% CI]: 1.44 [1.42–1.47]; absolute difference: +7.4 percentage-points) and low socioeconomic status-serving (1.38[1.35–1.40]; +7.3% percentage-points) hospitals. Restricted analyses accounting for the influence of teaching status and severity of patient case-mix both accentuated disparities in HACRP penalties when limiting hospitals to those at the highest known penalty-risk (more residents-to-beds, more severe), absolute differences +13.9, +20.5 percentage-points. Restriction to high operative volume, in contrast, reduced the penalty difference, +6.6 percentage-points.Conclusions:Minority-serving hospitals are being disproportionately penalized by the HACRP. As the program continues to develop, efforts are needed to identify and protect patients in vulnerable institutions to ensure that disparities do not increase.

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