Hospitals Encouraged to Waive Bills on Botched Care
Some of the nation’s largest employers are sick of paying for botched medical care, and have called on hospitals to agree to waive costs associated with medical mistakes that should never happen – “never events.”
The employers said hospitals should be more accountable for their errors. They are pushing for the implementation of a policy that would force hospitals to waive the costs of 28 different health care never events.
Among these never events are wrong-site surgeries, and donor sperm mix-ups. Mistakes of these types are malpractice lawsuit magnets, and the settlements cost more than the procedures.
Other never events on the list, such as leaving surgical instruments inside patients, and patient injuries resulting from “contaminated drugs, devices or biologics provided b the health care facility,” are probably considerably more common, and they are driving up the cost of health insurance.
The number of never events is unknown, but experts estimate that they number in the tens of thousands per year. One report blames hospital errors for as many as 98,000 deaths per year.
When mistakes like these occur, the businesses who end up paying for them say that the care provider should apologize to the patient, and not bill their employers or insurers. The costs associated with hospital mistakes and the symptoms of low quality health care comprise 30 percent of total health care costs, according to some estimates.
Because of the mistakes’ gravity, defending payment for these errors is hard to defend. Hospitals’ refusal of compliance with these demands could cause an uproar.
The fact that few jurisdictions require hospitals to disclose their errors may hinder the implementation of these measures, however.
There is also pressure to take these measures further and demand the waiving of costs associated with more common mistakes, such as hospital infections, and other simple health quality issues, as a result of the debate over paying hospitals based on their performance.
“Never events are a symptom of a health care system that is broken and unresponsive,” said Debra Ness, president of the consumer advocacy group, National Partnership for Women & Families. “We look forward to working with employers to ensure that patients never have to bear the financial costs associated with never events, and to working with policymakers and consumers to prevent never events altogether.”
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