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Medical Malpractice: Costs for medical mistakes

In reviewing medical malpractice cases, we’re not really surprised by the rate of malpractice. But we are surprised by the number of medical providers that routinely bill patients and insurance companies for the care that went wrong and, even more appalling, for the care needed to correct the initial mistakes. In the past, individual patients had little power to resist these efforts. Fortunately, someone does.

An article in today’s Chicago Tribune describes the efforts of many large health care purchasers (for example, Boeing and General Motors) to stop the unnecessary charges. The groups called on hospital groups to apologize for the numerous errors and to waive any costs related to 28 “never” events — medical errors so basic that these employers say the errors should never happen. These events include surgery on the wrong body part, mixing up donor sperm in artificial insemination, retention of foreign objects (such as a sponge) in the body after surgery, and the giving of contaminated medication. Although the article says the number of such “never” events occurring annually is unknown, it is likely in the tens of thousands per year.

It will be interesting to see how the health care industry responds, and if they do, whether any benefits will be passed on to individual consumers or just those large employers with leverage.

For another post of the inefficiencies of health care, click here.

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