A study of over 41 million Medicare funded hospitalizations between 2004 and 2006 just released by an independent health care rating company, HealthGrades, reveals the prevalence and staggering cost of hospital medical errors. The study revealed more than 1.1 million preventable medical errors occurred, resulting in 238,337 preventable deaths. The cost of these errors to taxpayers was just over 8.8 billion dollars. These numbers reflect only medical errors/costs associated with hospital care paid for by Medicare. They do not include any figures for hospital care paid for by private health insurance companies because much of this information is not publicly available. You can be sure that the numbers reported, high as they are, would be dramatically higher if information from private insurers was made available for analysis.
This study further confirms the significant risks associated with hospitalization in this country. Medicare has already indicated that, beginning in October 2008, it will no longer pay for injuries/infections attributable to certain preventable medical errors. See our blog of February 19, 2008 for more information. For steps you can take to help prevent medical errors, check the medical negligence heading on our website.