In a blog article on the Wall Street Journal, Jacob Goldstein discusses a new Medicare rule that deny Medicare payments for errors that are commonly caused by less than perfect care. Many times, these errors actually benefit the hospital by increasing the care needed to treat the problem, including longer hospital stays.
The new rule would go into effect in October 2008 and would cover the following:
B. Two types of hospital acquired infections; and
C. Three “never events” (events that should never happen under any circumstance): blood incompatibility: when a patient is given the wrong type of blood; air embolism: when bubbles of air or gas enter the bloodstream during a procedure; and leaving an object inside a patient during surgery.
The American Hospital Association’s response supports ending payments for the three “never events”, but argues that some hospital acquired infections and pressure ulcers can happen even if the patient receives the best care possible.
I certainly hope that some version of this rule passes. Perhaps when these mistakes start affecting the hospitals’ bottom line they will start working harder to avoid them. Just as importantly, the new rule needs to be written so that patients who are victims of medical errors are not made victims again by having to pay what Medicare will not.