Hospitals say they won’t bill patients, insurers for certain medical errors

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(Host) If Vermont hospitals make a serious and harmful medical error, their patients and insurance companies will not get billed.

That’s according to a new policy announced today by Governor Jim Douglas and the Vermont Hospital Association.

Officials said the policy is designed to make hospitals more accountable for delivering quality care.

VPR’s John Dillon reports:

(Dillon) Starting with the New Year, hospitals have to report to the state medical errors that cause serious health effects.

The state’s 14 hospitals have also adopted a formal policy of not charging patients or insurance companies for these medical mistakes.

The new policy covers eight categories — such as surgery on the wrong body part, doctors performing the wrong surgical procedure, or something left inside a patient after an operation.

Bea Grause is the president of the Vermont Association of Hospitals and Health Systems.

(Grause) “This new effort is part of our broader long-term strategy to work with the state and other stakeholders to improve patient safety.”

(Dillon) Grause said hospitals in Vermont already have an informal practice of not charging patients for serious medical errors. She says the new policy extends that practice to insurance companies.

It’s not known how many of these medical errors are committed by Vermont hospitals. Grause stressed that the events are rare.

But the information will eventually become public as hospitals file new disclosure reports with the state.  Jill Olson is vice president for policy at the hospital association.

(Olson) “There’s a tremendous amount of work that hospitals already do today to prevent these events. Really what this is all about is that increased level of accountability for hospitals and the expectation that we will be doing that safety work within hospitals and then not expecting payment on those rare events when the system fails.”

(Dillon) The reporting of these adverse health events was required under a bill passed in 2006.

Governor Jim Douglas said the hospitals deserve credit for taking the next step and developing the policy that says patients and insurance companies won’t get billed for the medical mistakes.

For VPR News, I’m John Dillon in Montpelier.


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