Medicare ruling to deny payment for medical hospital errors

Released on: September 26, 2008, 11:45 am

Press Release Author: Howard Janet

Industry: Healthcare

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 providers 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 wont 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
its 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 patients responsibility.
Does this Medicare/Insurance policy rule simply shift the costs of medical mistakes
to the consumer? And who decides if a mistake occurred, or if it was
preventable? 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 lets keep going. To make health care providers truly
responsible and to protect patients, legislation is needed to make it clear that:

Non-recoverable expenses related to medical mistakes cannot be charged to the patient
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
medicines full attention. Its a shame that toe tags never garnered the same

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