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More states stop billing for serious preventable medical errors

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Hospitals in nearly half the states in the nation now say they won’t bill patients for the worst kind of medical mistakes, including operating on the wrong body part or the wrong person, or giving someone the wrong blood, reports

The list has more than doubled since February, when an analysis showed that hospital associations in 11 states urged their members to waive payment for specific errors (“never events”).

Tennessee is among 23 states that have approved non-payment policies for specific mistakes, with at least three more expected to do so by fall, a new review shows. Hospitals in another eight states have agreed to general guidelines that advise eliminating bills on a case-by-case basis for errors proven to be both serious and preventable.

The movement towards stopping payments for avoidable errors has grown since federal officials announced Medicare would no longer reimburse hospitals for the extra costs of treating certain injuries, infections and complications that occur after admission, from October 1st, 2008. Medicare officials this month expanded their list of no-pay conditions to eleven. In addition, the agency urged state Medicaid directors nationwide to implement the non-payment policies, already in effect in Massachusetts, New York and Pennsylvania.

At the same time, many of the nation’s largest insurance providers — Cigna, Aetna, Blue Cross Blue Shield — have announced they no longer will pay for serious, preventable mistakes.

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