Hospitals face new Medicare penalties if the government finds they re-admit a large number of patients soon after they are discharged.

But a new study shows hospitals have made little progress in stopping re-admissions for Medicare patients. The study shows hospitals face an uphill battle fighting these new government fines because it found one in six Medicare patients still has to be hospitalized shortly after they are discharged.

“Nationally, there was relatively little change in 30-day re-admission rates from 2004 to 2009, regardless of the cause of the initial hospitalization,” says a statement from the authors of the study at the Dartmouth Atlas Project, which is funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The study is based on an examination of the records of 10.7 million hospital discharges for Medicare patients.

The researchers added that hospitals have made “little progress over a five-year period in reducing these hospital re-admissions and improving care coordination for Medicare patients.”

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