The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has published a rule that prohibits the Medicaid program from paying hospitals for "never" events, reports Kaiser Health News.
Currently, state Medicaid programs had the autonomy to decide whether to pay for care associated with such preventable complications, typically a grievous medical error that endangers the life of a patient or can even kill them, such as a wrong-side surgery, a retained surgical object, or post-surgical infection for spinal, bariatric and other procedures. However, fewer than half of the states have such rules on the books.
"These steps will encourage health professionals and hospitals to reduce preventable infections, and eliminate serious medical errors," said Donald Berwick, administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. "As we reduce the frequency of these conditions, we will improve care for patients and bring down costs at the same time."
The financial impact on hospitals could be considerable, as the cost of battling a preventable infection can run tens of thousands of dollars, while a wrong-sided surgery can open the facility up to litigation.
The new rule goes into effect nationwide on July 2012.