No more Medicare coverage for “preventable” errors

According to the New York Times, new regulations to be published this week will bar Medicare from “pay[ing] the extra costs of treating preventable errors, injuries and infections that occur in hospitals . . . .” The idea is to keep costs down and encourage hospitals to improve their quality control. A number of private insurance companies are considering following suit.

The Times article is laden with interviewee statements fairly gushing with approval over this proposal. I’m not so sure.

What does “preventable” mean and, more importantly, who makes the decision? If the final authority is some laissez-faire, feces-throwing Bush Administration troglodyte whose sole mission is facilitating diversion of money from health care to extermination of brown people, I want no part of it.

Also, if Medicare doesn’t pay, who does? The Department of Health and Human Services, the agency charged with promulgating Medicare regulations, undeniably has the authority to prevent hospitals from trying to collect treatment costs associated with “preventable” errors from the patient, but will it? If so, what effect with the specter of not getting paid have on the hospital’s treatment of an infection that might ultimately be determined was “preventable”? Such concerns grow exponentially in the private insurance context.

An insurance company’s or HHS’s determination that treatment costs resulted from preventable error also raises civil liability issues. Might those issues have an effect on the care a patient receives? You’re goddamn jolly well right it might.

Seems to me there’s plenty of cause for skepticism here. I’m open to persuasion, but the fact that the idea comes from the Bush Administration raises a presumption of evil that won’t be easy to rebut.

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