According to a recent report published in the Journal of Patient Safety, it is estimated that over 400,000 patients die each year in the United States because of medical errors that could have been avoided. Another report found that medical errors like these cost Americans about $19.5 billion annually because of additional medical care, medication, and other corrective, or follow-up, treatments. With so much at stake in the complex world of medical mistakes, the question then becomes: who pays?
As with most other questions involving the health care industry, the answer to this question is complicated and varies depending on the parties involved. According to a recent news article, in some cases, if an error is made while a patient is being treated in a hospital, it is hospital policy to admit the mistake and provide free follow-up care. On the surface, admitting a mistake might seem like a recipe for being sued for medical malpractice. However, the article points out that there is research suggesting that an injured patient is less likely to sue for malpractice if a hospital comes clean about any errors that may have been committed.
More frequently, the article indicates, hospitals do not waive bills arising in the wake of a medical error, although the American Medical Association (AMA) and several other prominent groups are urging hospitals to do exactly that. If or until this happens, there are several other scenarios that are possible when costs associated with a possible medical error arise.
First, an injured party can sue the hospital or physician for medical malpractice. If the patient can prove that any of the health care providers involved in his or her medical care failed to act with reasonable care, and that this failure caused his or her injuries, the patient may be able to recover for any out-of-pocket medical expenses that were incurred as a result of the error. In Illinois, injured patients can also recover for lost wages, diminished future income, and pain and suffering, which are all common after a significant medical mistake is made.
In cases in which it is unclear if an error is made, and a patient faces mounting medical bills from a hospital that is unwilling to waive follow-up medical costs, the article explains that patients can ask their employer to step in and push for the hospital to provide free follow-up medical care. There are financial incentives for employers to get involved in these situations because the cost of paying for hospital care is nearly $40,000 more when surgical complications are present.
Another party that may be able to come to the aid of a patient is his or her private insurance company. In some instances, the article states, hospitals that are part of an insurance company’s network may agree in advance to provide free follow-up care if a complication or injury is clearly the result of a medical error.
Of course, the worst scenario involves a patient who may have experienced a medical error but who is forced to pay out-of-pocket for his or her follow-up medical care. According to the article, one such case involved a 61-year-old man who suffered a punctured colon during a routine colonoscopy. As a result, he was rushed to the operating room for emergency surgery, where he nearly died due to cardiac arrest.
Today, the patient has two stents in his heart and wears a pacemaker. He also lost his job and his health insurance, and he wound up with $600,000 in uncovered medical bills due to follow-up cardiac care. According to a family member quoted in the article, as a result of his current health conditions, he lives in constant fear of dying and now finds very little enjoyment in life.
Have You Been Injured By a Doctor or Other Health Care Professional?
Many patients blame themselves for failing to fully recover after a medical procedure or surgery. Others falsely believe that any type of post-surgical pain is normal. Some patients even suspect that their doctor may have committed an error during treatment, but they simply do not want to complain about the pain they continue to feel. At Moll Law Group, our lawyers take the uncertainty out of your situation. We want only what is in your best interest, and we have the experience to know what course of action is most suited to your case. Do not try and answer these complicated questions yourself. If you continue to suffer after a medical procedure, or you are unsure if a medical error was committed in the first place, call Moll Law Group for a free consultation. Our phone number is (312) 462-1700.
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Medical Device Manufacturer Recalls Hip Replacement Part, Illinois Injury Lawyer Blog, November 14, 2015.
Naperville Residents Warned of Risk of Addiction to Prescription Drugs, Illinois Injury Lawyer Blog, November 21, 2015.
One Person Killed, Eight Injured In Accident on Interstate 57, Illinois Injury Lawyer Blog, November 17, 2015.