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COLUMBUS, Miss. (WCBI) – Medicare patients may now receive better care in hospitals. As of October 1st, the new health care law allows Medicare to fine hospitals that have too many patients re-admitted within a 30 day period due to complications.

Hospitals have been preparing to comply with the new law that will require them to reduce the number of patients re-admitted within 30 days of discharge. The fines are apart of President Obama’s health care law that hopes to improve the quality of care as well as save tax payers money. The fines are capped at one percent of the hospital’s Medicare payments for the first year. The penalties can gradually rise to 3 percent.

Glenda Brinkley of North Mississippi Medical Center in West Point says they are ready to meet the new requirements. “About a year ago, our hospital actually started our own re-admissions team to look at our re-admissions rate. We’ve also gotten the community involved. We are working with our local nursing homes. We’re also working with the four home health care agencies in our area. We are calling patients back who’ve gone home already.”

The law only applies to three medical conditions: heart attacks, heart failure and pneumonia.  Dr. John Reed, Chief Medical Officer at Baptist Memorial Hospital – Golden Triangle, says they’ve worked to improve rates for years and found that educating patients is key to lowering re-admission rates.  “Over the years, we’ve known that patients have left the hospital, did not know exactly what was wrong with them or exactly what they needed to be doing to stay well. So we have a robust education program and particularly for our congestive heart failure program.”

The government estimates that about 22 hundred hospitals nation-wide will be hit with fines averaging over $100,000 if they don’t improve the quality of care.

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