Should Patients Be Billed for Preventable Medical Errors?

Expanding on the blog post from August 25 about serious medical errors, also known as sentinel events or “never events,” MSNBC recently reported that hospitals in about half of the nation’s states have decided not to bill for such events. This is a sweeping change since February, when MSNBC reported that only about 11 states chose not to bill for egregious medical mistakes. Hospitals will follow guidelines to determine which medical errors should be exempt from billing, and these guidelines will vary from state to state.

The undertaking of these new guidelines may have been influenced by various industry and federal organizations. Medicare announced that it would no longer pay for certain “hospital-acquired conditions” beginning October 1. In addition, some major insurance providers, such as Blue Cross Blue Shield and Cigna, stated they would no longer reimburse for preventable medical errors.

Hospitals argue that not billing for certain procedures or conditions is not so simple. Some of the so-called preventable medical errors may not be the sole fault of the hospital, and thus the hospitals should not have to absorb the costs.

Nonprofit healthcare safety agency National Quality Forum created a list of 28 “never events.” To see the entire list, click here.