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New Jersey eldercare ranked among the worst in the nation

With upcoming deadlines for the Affordable Care Act looming, healthcare organizations in New Jersey and around the country are taking a close look at their practices and policies to make sure they come into compliance in time. Many of the changes will be tied to funding for Medicaid, which is funded in part by the federal government but administered by the states.

A recent survey graded the states on how they cared for some of the most vulnerable members of our population – chronically ill elderly people. New Jersey ranked 50th out of 54 states in caring for those patients.

One of the key categories for evaluation was hospital re-admission rates. In New Jersey, one in five patients is readmitted within 30 days.

Under the Affordable Care Act, hospitals that have the highest readmission rates in the country will lose one percent of their Medicare funding, with increasing penalties as the problem continues.

Readmission may seem like a small issue, but it largely seen as avoidable and costly, and can be traumatic for elderly patients. Many older patients and those who suffer from cognitive impairments like dementia struggle when they leave their homes and become disoriented.

The more time patients spend in the hospital, the more likely they are to contract an infection, which is a serious safety issue for elderly patients. Doctors who do not properly treat patients the first time or whose negligent sterilization causes illness or death could be liable in a medical malpractice claim.

The information about readmissions is concerning for New Jersey residents, but hopefully the stiff consequences for remaining among the lowest ranked states will create an incentive for better, more thorough care.

Source: New Jersey Star-Ledger, “Survey: N.J. ranked near bottom in caring for chronically ill elderly,” Susan K. Livio, July 10, 2012.

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