This time, we address their political tactic of trying to redirect attention away from the enormous cost of negligence in hospitals, by focusing negative attention instead on the injured patients who sue because of them. For example, they often cite to “studies” trying to debunk the Institute of Medicine’s conservative finding that up to 98,000 die in hospitals due to avoidable medical errors, calling that “exaggerated.” I suppose that “exaggeration” would also extend to the costs of these errors, which IAM put at least at $17 to $29 billion a year – in 1999.
Well today, insurance actuaries and insurance industry consulting firm, Milliman, came out with some stunning numbers themselves – especially considering the source. Even they now say “measurable medical errors” cost the economy $19.5 billion in 2008, which they call “staggering.” According to their news release:
Medical errors are a significant source of lost healthcare funds every year. For example, the study found that $1.1 billion was from lost productivity due to related short-term disability claims, and $1.4 billion was lost from increased death rates among individuals who experienced medical errors.
"We used a conservative methodology and still found 1.5 million measurable medical errors occurred in 2008," says Jonathan Shreve, FSA, MAAA, consulting actuary for Milliman and co-author of the report. "This number includes only the errors that we could identify through claims data, so the total economic impact of medical errors is in fact greater than what we have reported."
They say more than half the total error costs were the result of “five common errors: Pressure ulcers; Postoperative infections; Mechanical complications of devices, implants, or grafts; Postlaminectomy syndrome; Hemorrhages complicating a procedure."
The Sun has spent two years investigating hospital safety in Las Vegas, including analysis of hospital billing records on file with the state.
Among the findings: In 2008 and 2009, patients became infected with lethal, drug-resistant "superbugs" in area hospitals 2,010 times.
Two hundred thirty-nine died — although it's impossible to tell from hospital billing records how or whether the infections factored in the patients' deaths.
Moreover, they report that “health care-acquired infections” alone cost the country $30 billion annually and kill 100,000 people, putting it among the leading causes of death in the United States. That’s a far greater cost than the actuaries found.
And if that doesn’t get your attention, remember that “Much of the cost of hospital-acquired infections is borne by taxpayers and the insured, through government insurance programs and private insurers." (Can't we finally all agree that it's time for Nevada to get rid of its anti-accountability, anti-safety "cap" on compensation for injured patients?)
OK all together now: Told You So!