Many Medicare Patients Leave Hospital, Then Quickly Return
Readmissions cost US billions a year
By Jason Farago,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 2, 2009 7:30 AM CDT
Martin Luther King Jr. Harbor Hospital is shown Tuesday July 24, 2007, in Los Angeles.   (AP Photo/Nick Ut)
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(Newser) – One-third of all Medicare patients hospitalized each year are readmitted within 90 days of being discharged, costing taxpayers billions of dollars annually, a new study found. Meanwhile, half of patients who went back in the first month after treatment had not seen a doctor in the interim. "Given the current financial situation, this is no longer something we can ignore," one health researcher told the New York Times.

Readmissions could be cut considerably with better follow-up care, according to the report in the New England Journal of Medicine. The Obama administration has already identified lowering readmissions as a cost-cutting measure. Some institutions have taken the lead: At one hospital in Pennsylvania, doctors who educated their patients on what to expect after surgery saw readmission rates drop by 20%.