Medicare ruling to deny payment for medical hospital errors
Released on: September 26, 2008, 11:45 am
Press Release Author: Howard Janet
Press Release Summary: Major health insurance companies are aligning with Medicare in refusals to pay for medical errors that occur in hospitals. New issues in health care providersí responsibility to protect patients suggest the need for legislation.
Press Release Body: Major health insurance companies are getting on the bandwagon with Medicare in saying they wonít pay for medical errors that occur in hospitals. These include things like operating on the wrong body part, allowing bed sores to fester through neglect, exposing open wounds to infection by not washing hands, and the like. The companies say by upping the financial consequences of preventable mistakes, they will force hospitals to take patient safety more seriously. Certainly itís a hammer long overdue. But while it nails down some issues, it opens others that deserve scrutiny.
As pointed out in many posts to online stories, hospital admission papers clearly state that any costs not covered by insurance will be the patientís responsibility. Does this Medicare/Insurance policy rule simply shift the costs of medical mistakes to the consumer? And who decides if a ďmistakeĒ occurred, or if it was ďpreventable?Ē As an attorney who has spent most of his career dealing with medical malpractice, I can attest that hospitals and doctors rarely voluntarily admit to making a mistake. It usually takes a lawsuit to get at the facts. Given the new financial consequences, I foresee doctors and hospitals going to even greater lengths to hide and obfuscate the facts of medical errors, which will make legal justice more difficult and more costly.
Consumer groups are hailing this new stance by Medicare and some private insurers as a healthy step. But letís keep going. To make health care providers truly responsible and to protect patients, legislation is needed to make it clear that:
ē Non-recoverable expenses related to medical mistakes cannot be charged to the patient ē The costs of medical mistakes cannot be added to general hospital expense calculations (that end up being passed on to all patients)
By putting a price tag on the cost of medical errors, the government may finally get medicineís full attention. Itís a shame that toe tags never garnered the same respect.
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