This article compares how Health Partners did the same thing, but perhaps not as stringent in it's provisions and even admits the new policy may have additional problems once it starts there as well.  BD

Three years ago, a Minnesota health insurer said it would stop paying for things that should never happen to patient in a hospital, such as leaving a sponge in the body after surgery. The move by HealthPartners sparked an uproar. Hospitals complained that it would discourage staff from reporting errors. Patients worried they'd be hit with a fat bill if the insurer refused to pay.

Whether something like this can work nationally or becomes an administrative nightmare remains to be seen. Even Minnesota hospitals, ahead of those in most other states when it comes to patient safety initiatives, foresee some difficulties with the new policy.

Since the HealthPartners policy took effect in January 2005, the insurer has been billed for fewer than 10 never events. Other errors were caught by hospitals before billing HealthPartners, but the insurer has not tracked those.  In Minnesota, some of the initial dismay has dissipated.

The nonprofit status of Minnesota hospitals also may be a problem, said Dr. Charles Fazio, chief medical officer at Medica. "If you end up not paying for these things, where do these costs go? They end up getting transmitted into the system somehow," Fazio said.

Medicare tightening the screws on medical mistakes


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