Hospitals and health care officials will no longer be able to pass on their goofs — a foreign object left behind during surgery or, say, the wrong leg cut off — to patients’ insurers under a measure signed into law by Gov. Jon Corzine. The law bars health care professionals and hospitals from charging patients for errors or hospital-acquired conditions that are ineligible from third-party reimbursement.
The new measure outlines possible goofs that should be avoided, including:
A foreign object left during a procedure;
Iatrogenic pneumothorax (leaving air in the chest cavity);
Postoperative hip fracture;
Postoperative hemorrhage or hematoma;
Postoperative deep vein thrombosis or pulmonary embolism;
Postoperative wound dehiscence (rupture);
Accidental puncture of laceration;
Obstetric trauma — vaginal delivery with/without instrument; Air embolism; or Surgery on the wrong side, wrong body part, or wrong person.
The listed errors were based on guidelines from the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid.
If one of those errors are identified, the patient cannot be charged if the error will not be reimbursed by a third-party payer, such as an insurance carrier, Medicare or Medicaid.
The New Jersey Hospitals Association initially opposed the bill — that is, until lawmakers amended the measure so that health care workers could still report errors anonymously.
“In the end, we worked with the sponsors on a compromise” that left the Patient Safety Act untouched, along with its promise of anonymity, says association spokeswoman Kerry McKean Kelly.
“New Jersey is a national leader in protecting consumers and promoting quality health care,” Corzine said in his signing statement. “Today, we are enacting legislation that represents an important step forward for the health and safety of our citizens. By doing so, we will be helping people make more informed health care decisions and helping hospitals prevent medical errors.”
Sen. Joseph Vitale, D-Middlesex, the chief sponsor in the Senate, said, “Health care consumers have a right to know, particularly when it comes to the safety and quality of the health care experience.”
“Patients and families have a right to know which hospitals have the highest and lowest error rates so they can compare and make responsible health care choices,” added the chief Assembly sponsor, Assemblyman Paul Moriarty, D-Gloucester.
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