August 20, 2012 | By Alicia Caramenico from Fierce Healthcare

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services will recoup about $280 million in payments from more than 2,200 hospitals beginning in October–a number that has the attention of hospital executives, Kaiser Health News reports.

“I’m not sure penalties alone are going to move the needle, but they have raised awareness and moved many hospitals to action,” Eric Coleman, M.D., a national expert on readmissions at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, told KHN in a previous article.

For instance, a 0.66 percent penalty has prompted Delaware’s St. Francis Hospital to explore ways to improve handoffs and discharge to home care and skilled nursing facilities, KHN noted. “[H]aving these penalties over our head does kind of make a difference,” St. Francis Vice President for patient-care services and Chief Nursing Officer Coy Smith told WHYY.

Meanwhile, Wisconsin Hospital Association Chief Quality Officer Kelly Court attributed coordination among hospitals, community doctors, home care agencies and nursing homes with helping about 70 percent of the state’s hospitals escape the new penalty, according to Wisconsin Public Radio.

However, some hospital leaders in the Philadelphia area are voicing their opposition to penalizing hospitals for excess readmissions. “[Medicare] needs to remember that people are not cars,” Curt Schroder, head of the Delaware Valley Healthcare Council, told WHYY. “They seem to be treating hospitals like auto repair shops.”

Similarly, execs of two hospitals that have dodged the new penalty maintain a hospital’s readmission rate is not necessarily the best way to measure care.

According to David J. Shulkin, M.D., head of Morristown Medical Center in New Jersey, a  hospital’s readmission rate is only one “piece of a larger puzzle,” while Dr. Thomas MacKenzie, head of quality for Denver Health, said reimbursement rates can’t be viewed in a vacuum, FierceHealthcare previously reported.