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Never Means Never Under New Policy Under Medicare

Editor: In this world of skyrocketing health-care costs and financial crises, some good news has finally come to the average American consumer and taxpayer.

Last week, Medicare changed its rules to withhold payment for certain “never events” — medical mistakes that should never occur, such as administering the wrong blood type or leaving an instrument inside a surgical patient. Medicare also says it won’t pay for serious bed sores, injuries from falls and urinary tract infections caused by catheters, among other things. Four state Medicaid programs, including Pennsylvania, as well as several of the nation’s largest health insurers, are following suit.

It’s about time. Unlike any other service we consume, we have been living — and dying — with a U.S. health-care system that rewards mistakes and profits by making patients sicker. Hospitals that fail to prevent deadly post-operative infections, turning three-day stays into three-month stays, get paid anyway. Doctors who operate on the wrong body part get paid anyway. Poor quality control is a major contributor to skyrocketing health-care costs, which are driving up insurance rates and bankrupting Americans, as well as their employers.

Patients, insurance companies and employers shouldn’t have to pay for medical mistakes any more than a homeowner should have to pay for a plumber who was hired to fix a leak, but worked on the wrong pipe, broke it and made the situation worse. Withholding payment for medical errors and holding wrongdoers accountable won’t fully cure our nation’s health-care ills, but it’s a sensible step in the right direction.

ATTORNEY DAVID I. FALLK
THE COMMITTEE FOR JUSTICE FOR ALL
KINGSTON

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