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Medicare to cease payment for hospital errors by 2008

Medicare announced it will stop paying for some hospital mistakes as of next year, reports HealthDecisions.org. Currently, Medicare pays for more than 60 percent of hospital acquired infections (HAIs), but this is no longer acceptable, agency leaders have said.

The new rules state the agency will stop paying for preventable complications, leaving hospitals themselves to pay to fix these and other medical complications that are considered largely preventable. As blogged previously, effective Oct 2008, Medicare will stop paying for six costly and, sometimes deadly, preventable hospital-acquired conditions, including pressure ulcers, two hospital-acquired infections (catheter-associated urinary tract infections and Staphylococcus aureus septicemia) and, interestingly, three “never events” (air embolism, blood incompatibility and object left behind in surgical patient). Besides those on the list for 2008, seven more conditions are under consideration for 2009.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported that there are more than 500,000 catheter-associated urinary tract infections alone each year, and that they cost $451 million to treat. Hospitals will not be allowed to pass the cost of mistakes on to patients.

For Medicare to withhold payment, the complications must be considered preventable. In addition to hospital infections, the changes mean no extra payments to treat patients affected by:

  • Injuries resulting from a fall in the hospital.
  • Reactions when transfusion patients get the wrong blood type.
  • Air embolism, when air invades the blood stream.
  • Bed sores that patients develop while in the hospital.
  • Objects, such as sponges or surgical tools, left in patients during surgery.