Average readmissions penalties in the Hospital Readmissions Reduction Program doubled in the first five years of the program, from 0.29% in 2013 to 0.6% in 2017, according to a study published today in Health Affairs. “The penalty burden was greater in hospitals that were urban, major teaching, large, or for-profit and that treated larger shares of Medicare or socioeconomically disadvantaged patients,” the authors said. “Surprisingly, hospitals treating greater proportions of medically complex Medicare patients had a lower cumulative penalty burden compared to those treating fewer proportions of these patients. Lastly, we found that hospitals with high baseline penalties in the first year continued to receive significantly higher penalties in subsequent years. For many hospitals, the HRRP leads to persistent penalization and limited capacity to reduce penalty burden. Alternative structures might avoid persistent penalization, while still motivating reductions in hospital readmissions.”