Medicare won’t pay for hospital-caused injuries after October 1

Medicare, soon to be followed by private health insurers, will no longer pay for medical treatment of preventable injuries caused by medical errors. Medicare lists eight “hospital-caused preventable injuries,” including urinary tract infections from catheters, falls, pressure sores, and embolism. After October 1st, if a Medicare patient develops one of these eight injuries, Medicare won’t pay for treatment. Apparently under this plan, hospitals cannot bill the patient, either.

I don’t know what to think about this. On one hand, if it truly becomes a matter of economic incentive for the hospitals, perhaps they will take more precautions to avoid these problems. On the other hand, this could lead to decreased quality of care for those patients who end up with these preventable injuries which no one is paying to treat. The number-crunchers in hospital administration might try to cut their loses by withholding appropriate and expensive care. It also seems that the patient could be caught in a tug-of-war between the hospitals and the insurers over whether or not something was preventable in the first place.

Bottom line, patients will end up getting screwed by this. Woe be to those in Texas, where the tort-deform insurance lobbyists and many of your elected representatives have just about driven the last nails into injured consumers’ coffins.