Changes in Medicare Policy Designed To Save Money and Protect Patients

Changes in Medicare policy this year will effectively save the system money and protect patients while in hospital, according to Ellen Griffith, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services public affairs specialist.

Beginning October 1st, 2008, any of eight preventable conditions occurring in-hospital will no longer be the responsibility of Medicare. In the past, Medicare would pay for the initial diagnosis as well as any further diagnosis, even when resulting from accidents which happened while the patient was in the care of the hospital. Now, because Medicare will no longer be covering the cost of these second diagnoses, and the hospitals cannot charge Medicare patients for this procedure not covered by Medicare, the resulting expenses will consequently fall on the hospital itself. These changes, supported both my Medicare and by a number of hospitals, should save Medicare $20 million dollars during the first year while encouraging hospitals to take further steps in preventing hospital injuries.

The accidents no longer covered include three types of infections; vascular catheter-associated infection, which results from installing a catheter in conditions which are not sterile, catheter-associated urinary tract infections, and surgical site infections, also resulting from less sterile circumstances. The other accidents which will now be the responsibility of the hospital are objects left inside patients after surgery, pressure ulcers or bedsores, blood incompatibilities, air bubbles blocking arteries or veins, and falls.

What this means for you is that if you require in hospital care after October 1 and are injured in a way which could have been prevented, neither you nor Medicare will need to worry about the costs.

Many hospitals, however, have already been using careful monitoring and specific procedures created to prevent hospital related accidents. As a result, a number of hospitals report success in drastically reducing these hospital errors and further protecting the care of their patients.

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