According to a survey conducted in 2006 by the Archives of Surgery, there are 1,300 to 2,700 medical procedures that went terribly wrong in the United States. This long list of medical mistakes includes wrong site procedures – operating on the wrong person, wrong place, or wrong body part.
Whether it is a healthy organ that was removed, operation on the wrong side of the brain, bypassing the wrong artery, or not administering enough anesthesia, the question remains, who pays for these horrendous medical mistakes? So far, only eleven states in the U.S. have agreed to not charge patients or their health care providers for serious preventable errors on behalf of the medical team. Hospitals should waive fees for these rare errors because they should not have been allowed to happen in the first place and patients should not be punished even further by being pinned the medical bill. However, this isn’t the case in reality. Since only 11 states have acknowledged medical mistake waivers, the rest of the states take the position of not paying for these wrongful procedures because they feel that they are accepting total liability in court. That leaves 39 states where patients who suffered from wrongful medical procedures to expect they, or their medical insurance providers to pay for procedures. This should stir a reform for no payment policies to waive all fees to patients who suffered from unexpected removals of organs, amputations, or wrongful operations.
While some states have developed their own lists based on NQF (National Quality Forum) standards, the list outlines a selection of non-billable errors to medical mistakes that will hold the hospital liable. Even still, such lists may or may not accept responsibility for mistakes such as artificial insemination with the wrong donor sperm or egg, or wrongful removal of a body part. It’s hard to believe, but since medical mistake payment and liability is not controlled on the federal level, it is up to the states to develop their own process of action when dealing with such cases.
On the Federal level, at least the government has some idea about the statistical numbers attributed to medical errors. Looking at reported Medicare numbers, in 2006 Medicare was sent bills 764 times for foreign objects left behind in a surgery. Each average payment per case was estimated to be about $62,000.
Many patients resonate the same opinion regarding this matter. They should not be charged for any egregious mistakes performed and hospitals should step up and even pay the patients a remuneration or compensation fee for enduring unexpected and often painful procedures.
Regarding health associations and large medical insurance companies, refusing to pay for hospital errors is a way to improve patient safety and cut health costs. Since hospitals cannot charge insurance companies for their mistakes, it might be more of an incentive for hospital practices to take greater precaution in patient care. Medicare has already taken this step and starting in October, will no longer pay costs associated with preventable conditions of patients after they have been hospitalized. Other large medical insurance providers will follow suit.
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