Past Event

Medical Errors – Who Should Bear the Costs?

In August, Medicare, a government program designed to assist individuals aged 65 and older and people with disabilities, created new rules concerning medical errors. As of October 2008, it will no longer compensate hospitals for costs associated with treatment for preventable conditions that develop while patients are in the hospital.

Based on recommendations by experts, the Bush administration compiled a list of conditions it believes can be avoided if health care facilities use “evidenced-based guidelines” for procedures. Some of the hospital-acquired complications no longer covered include bedsores developed during the patient’s stay, injuries caused by falls in the hospital, and additional treatment to retrieve surgical tools or sponges left in a patient during an operation. Analysts anticipate that private health insurance companies and state Medicaid programs will adopt these new rules as well.

The Bush administration estimates that the new rules will save Medicare millions of dollars each year. Officials also argue that by forcing hospitals to bear the financial costs of their errors, they will be pressured to improve their internal practices concerning patient safety.

Critics of the changes argue that rather than punishing hospitals for mistakes, we should reward those that actively prevent them. Others contend that some of the infections and injuries are the natural consequences of treating seriously ill patients for prolonged periods of time. Some claim that the rules do not go far enough in penalizing doctors and hospitals for errors. Fears are also emerging that hospitals will be drowned in paperwork to prove preexisting conditions and patients will be subject to multiple, additional tests upon admission.

Will the new Medicare rules lead to savingsfor patients and tax payers? Will hospitals implement better procedures to prevent errors? Are there better, unexplored alternatives to reducing hospital acquired complications? How will hospitals cover the expense of medicine, treatment, surgery and other costly methods of care previously reimbursed by Medicare? Though prevented from directly billing the patient, will they ultimately pass on the expenditures by increasing the overall cost of care? How great is the danger that hospitals may intentionally overlook a condition to avoid being forced to absorb the cost of their own errors?

Join us this week to tell us who you think should bear the costs of medical errors.

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For more informaiton, please contact Kristin Millikan at 312.422.5580.