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Delaware Hospitals Agree Not to Bill for Mistakes

Delaware has become the third state in the nation that will not bill patients or their insurance companies for certain medical errors. Delaware hospitals identified 9 serious mistakes for which they will no longer bill:

(1) performing surgery on the wrong body part;
(2) performing surgery on the wrong patient;
(3) performing the wrong surgery on a patient;
(4) sending a newborn infant home with the wrong family;
(5) unintentionally leaving a foreign object in the body;
(6) medication error that results in serious injury or death;
(7) using wrong artificial donor for insemination;
(8) causing injury by giving patient the wrong blood type; and
(9) air-embolism injury.

Interestingly, the “no pay” rule adopted by the Delaware Healthcare Association applies only to hospitals, which means that patients may still see a bill from their doctor for these types of errors. It is unclear how many errors occur in Delaware’s hospitals because Delaware (unlike many states, including Pennsylvania) does not require hospitals to report medical errors to the public. However, one study, performed by the Institute for Medicine in 1999, reported that nationwide, between 44,000 and 98,000 patients die in hospitals each year because of preventable medical errors.

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