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When Medical Mistakes Happen, JAMA Reports That Hospitals Seem To Win

Earlier this week, we discussed efforts by the Florida Legislature to add barriers to justice for victims of medical malpractice. Rather than focusing on improving conditions at hospitals and clinics throughout the state and devising systems to limit the number of medical mistakes that can lead to serious, even fatal injuries, the proposed bill is targeting victims rather than those who commit malpractice.

According to a recent report published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), hospitals across the country are making substantial profits off of medical mistakes and surgical errors. Perhaps that’s a reason that those who are injured are being targeted in malpractice “reform” rather than the doctor or surgeon who makes the mistake.

Patients who experience complications related to preventable medical mistakes offer hospitals and clinics more than a 300 percent more in profits than those who sail through a procedure. Extended hospital stays, additional tests and even revisionary procedures all result in additional income from a patient who was the victim of medical malpractice.

Even Medicare patients offer a higher return to a treating hospital if their physician or surgeon makes a critical mistake. The JAMA study reported a 190 percent increase in hospital profits for those covered by Medicare who endured a surgical error.

Essentially, the health care system of private insurers, Medicare and Medicaid are rewarding hospitals when health care professionals make mistakes. It would make more sense for the financial incentive to tip the other way, by rewarding hospitals and medical professionals who provide exceptional patient care rather than rewarding those who cause harm.

Source: CBS News, “Surgical complications and errors bring in more money for hospitals,” April 17, 2013

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