CMS Initiative to Reduce Potentially Avoidable Hospitalizations Among Long-Stay Nursing Facility Residents: Lessons Learned

Original Scholarship Value-Based Payment

Policy Points:

  • Misaligned incentives between Medicare and Medicaid may result in avoidable hospitalizations among long-stay nursing home residents.

  • Providing nursing homes with clinical staff, such as nurse practitioners, was more effective in reducing resident hospitalizations than providing Medicare incentive payments alone.

Context: In 2012, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services implemented the Initiative to Reduce Avoidable Hospitalizations Among Nursing Facility Residents. In Phase 1 (2012 to 2016), clinical or education-based interventions (Clinical-Only) aimed to reduce hospitalizations among long-stay nursing home residents. In Phase 2 (2016 to 2020), the Initiative also included a Medicare payment incentive for treating residents with certain conditions within the nursing home. Nursing homes participating in Phase 1 continued their previous interventions and received the incentive (Clinical + Payment) and others received the incentive only (Payment-Only).

Methods: Mixed methods were used to determine the effectiveness of the Initiative and explore facilitators of and barriers to implementation that participating nursing homes experienced. We used telephone and in-person interviews to investigate aspects of implementation and a difference-in-differences regression model framework comparing residents in participating and nonparticipating nursing homes to determine the effect of the Initiative on measures of utilization, expenditures, and quality.

Findings: Three key components were necessary for successful implementation of the Initiative—staff retention and leadership stability, leadership and staff support, and provider engagement and support. Nursing homes that lacked one or more of these three components experienced greater challenges. The Clinical-Only intervention in Phase 1 was successful in reducing hospitalizations. We did not find evidence that the Clinical + Payment or Payment-Only interventions were successful in reducing hospitalizations.

Conclusions: Reducing hospitalizations among nursing home residents hinges upon the availability and support of clinical staff who can provide ongoing education to direct-care staff in the nursing home, as well as hands-on care. Use of Medicare payment incentives alone to encourage on-site treatment of residents was insufficient to reduce hospitalizations. Unless nursing homes are adequately staffed to treat residents with acute care needs, further reductions in hospitalizations will be difficult to achieve.


Tyler A, Feng Z, Grabowski D, Bercaw L, Segelman M, Khatutsky G, Wang J, Gasdaska A, Ingber M. CMS Initiative to Reduce Potentially Avoidable Hospitalizations Among Long-Stay Nursing Facility Residents: Lessons Learned. Milbank Q. 2022;100(4):1227.