Minnesota hospitals not billing patients, insurers for errors

September 24, 2007

Hospitals swallowing cost of errors

Minnesota has become the first state in the nation to force its hospitals to pay for their mistakes. Gov. Tim Pawlenty announced Tuesday that the state's hospitals will no longer charge patients and insurance companies for certain medical errors, such as burns, falls, or festering bedsores. The new practice applies to 27 "never events"-mistakes that are never supposed to occur in hospitals but often do, including operating on the wrong body part or wrong patient, retrieving objects left behind in surgery, and serious medication errors. Under the new practice, hospitals will not charge for follow-up care caused by the mistakes. Though many Minnesota hospitals changed their billing practices in 2004 and no longer charge when medical mistakes have been made, health officials said the agreement was drafted in part to set an example for the rest of the country. Besides setting an example for the nation, Minnesota's new practice trumps a