Will your hospital bill you for its own mistake?

IV in hospitalIf you bring me your computer and ask me to put in a new DVD burner but somehow I remove your hard drive and leave a screwdriver inside your computer, how would you respond to me asking you to pay for the "service" rendered? Wow! You can stop with the profanity it was only a hypothetical question. Now imagine that You've come to the General Hospital in Ohio to get your right leg amputated and we accidentally remove your left leg, and then had the audacity to bill you for not only the correct amputation but also for the mistaken one! You may be as surprised as me to know that only 23 states have rules against charging a patient for certain mistakes!

As I look at my state of residence there is nothing official to stop them from billing me for a medical error. Instead I am supposed to take comfort in the knowledge that they have adopted guidelines to deal with cases such as these. Unfortunately despite these wonderful guidelines the local hospital has in the recent past billed at least one individual for surgery on both of her knees, after initially operating on the wrong one. If nothing else, I can be assured that my insurance company will fight these charges with the same tenacity they fight legitimate ones. That's kind of comforting. . . not!

Mistakes of this kind are referred to by hospitals as "never events", a slightly ironic term since they seem to be happening rather often nowadays. Maybe we can lobby for better legislation and a name change to classify these occurrences as "never say never events". Before you initial your limb for surgery next time be sure to find out what mistakes, if any your state provides protection from.

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