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Connecticut Prohibits Billing for "Never Events" and Related Care

The goal of reducing the number of preventable medical errors known as "never events" is increasing in jurisdictions all across the country. Connecticut, recently enacted a law in an effort to reduce medical malpractice and improve patient care. Specifically, the law prohibits hospitals and outpatient surgical facilities from billing insurers or patients for certain preventable medical errors.

Never Events

"Never events" are preventable medical errors that should never happen in any circumstance and include:

  • Mediation error
  • Blood transfusions with the wrong blood type
  • Hospital-acquired infections
  • Bedsores (pressure ulcer or decubitus ulcer)
  • Falls
  • Surgery on wrong body part (wrong site surgery)
  • Wrong surgical procedure performed on patient

Never-Event Laws

Reducing medical errors became an immediate federal agenda after the Institute of Medicine—an independent, nonprofit organization—published a landmark report called "To Err is Human" in 1999. The report estimated that at least 98,000 deaths each year resulted from preventable medical errors.

After realizing the magnitude and severity of medical errors, the federal government began requiring hospitals to report adverse events and medical errors. In 2002, Connecticut established mandatory reporting requirements and in 2004 created a list of 36 reportable adverse events for hospitals and outpatient clinics.

Soon after, Congress passed the Federal Deficit Act in 2005 prohibiting Medicare from paying hospitals for preventable medical errors (and patient care that results from such errors). In January, 2010, a similar Connecticut law that restricts hospitals' billing capabilities for adverse events became effective.

The Connecticut never-events law prohibits hospitals or outpatient facilities to seek payment for any extra costs incurred as the direct result of certain never events listed in the statute. Some of these adverse events (never events) include:

  • Objects accidentally left in the body after surgery (foreign retained bodies)
  • Air embolisms
  • Blood incompatibility
  • Hospital-acquired infections
  • Falls and other traumas

Many other states have implemented or considering creating laws that prevent hospitals and outpatient clinics from billing insurers or patients for medical errors and the necessary care that arises from them.

These laws, are a step in the right direction to combating medical malpractice and more importantly, preventing future injuries and death to patients.