SVMC is joined by Fletcher-Allen Health Care in Burlington in being penalized, according to Kaiser Health News. Nationally, some 2,000 hospitals have been penalized.
SVMC will be penalized .08 percent of its Medicaid income in the coming fiscal year; Fletcher-Allen .02 percent.
Dr. Trey Dobson, chief medical officer at SVMC, said the penalties are small, in part, because Medicaid is aware that its ability to track readmission rates is limited.
A readmission occurs when someone is discharged from the hospital and comes back within 30 days. Medicaid tracks readmissions for three initial ailments: heart failure, heart attacks, and pneumonia.
The penalties are authorized through the Affordable Care Act. Medicaid looked at data from July 2008 to 2011. All SVMC must do to reduce readmissions is improve communication with primary care providers and ensure patients know what they must do for follow-up care, Dobson said.
He said the number of patients readmitted for the three areas in question is small, perhaps five patients within 90 days. For rural hospitals that means a small number of readmissions can nearly double the rate. He said large, urban hospitals with difficulty managing patient populations are having the most trouble with the penalties.
"I think it's as fair as it can be," he said. "If the penalties were a lot more I would tell you it's not fair."