Mar 11 2008

Hospitals, Never Events and Your Bill

Last week was National Patient Safety Awareness Week. Seems like the press just caught up this week. From MSN and NBC, to Reuters, and hundreds of news outlets that are more regional or local in nature…. this week patient safety is the bulk of what I see in the headlines.

Most of us patients don’t give safety much thought. Afterall, the whole idea of seeking medical care is to improve our health and well being; not to make it worse. Sadly, for almost 100,000 Americans each year, patienting isn’t safe at all — it’s deadly.

The National Quality Forum, a combination government and not-for-profit agency, listed what it called “never events.” Included are drug errors, surgical errors, even criminal acts on the part of healthcare providers — or not prevented by healthcare providers.

Not listed, but just as deadly, are hospital acquired infections like MRSA.

What comes as a surprise to most is that even if a hospital or doctor has created an unsafe environment for you and you are harmed — you will get the bill for it! Say you acquire an infection while hospitalized. Not only do you have to stay in the hospital for several extra days or weeks, but you get the bill for it, too! Seriously — you get to pay for the additional insult, even though it was someone else’s fault.

That is now changing. Last year legislation was passed which allowed Medicare to proclaim that beginning in October of this year, Medicare will no longer pay for a list of eight medical mistakes; from MRSA acquisition to surgical errors to bedsores.

Now private insurers are saying they want to do the same, and their voices are getting louder.

The problem is, of course, that someone will have to pay the bill. A portion of the Medicare policy means that hospitals can’t bill the patients who suffer the errors — the hope being that instead, they will clean up their acts and stop commiting them.

But as I just said — someone will have to pay the bill. Will those of us not Medicare-insured end up paying the bill? Will those charges get hidden somewhere else? Will that 50 cent box of tissues we get billed for begin to cost us $5?

No specific answers for you today — just a caveat to stand back and watch out and be vigilant. There will be much more about this in the next several months. When coupled with the presidential elections only a month after the new policy goes into effect — well — it’s going to make for an interesting Fall.

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1 comment

    • Myrna on May 21, 2008 at 11:27 am

    I am recovering, or attempting to recover, from a bout with a MRSA infection. I had back surgery on July 31,2007, developed pneumonia the next day. I was sent to a rehab center 3 days later.
    The rehab center dismissed me after one week. I started intense itching and increased pain which steadily grew worse. The home health nurse offered no suggestions. The Doctor said to take Benedryl. Nothing helped. Finally, when I could not stand it any longer I went to the emergency room on Labor Day after the original incision opened and started to seep fluid. The doctor operated aain the following day and I was diagonsed with MRSA. 12 weeks of antibodic treatments by IV followed requiring a 6 week stay in the rehab center and 6 weeks of daily hospital visits for the IV treatment. The cost for surgery, treatment, rehab center and meds was over $200,000.00. I could have gone home for the entire IV treatment except Medicare refused to pay for the meds and I couldn’t afford $250 per day for the IV Meds. Therefor, I was placed in a room with a lady just released from the hospital with Broncodis and I developed an upper respitory infection requiring more meds which compromised my digestive tract and another visit to the emergency room. I contacted three attorneys about a malpractice action and they all refused to take my case. Perhaps, if I had died. They might have looked at it but I doubt it. I am still having difficulty with my digestive tract and have begun itching again. I am afraid the MRSA will return.

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