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A Financial Incentive to Avoid Errors

The government over the weekend announced that Medicare will no longer pay for the extra costs associated with preventable medical errors. The New York Times reports that conditions that will be affected include bedsores, injuries caused by falls, and infections resulting from the prolonged use of catheters in blood vessels or the bladder.

CMS also will not pay for the treatment of "serious preventable events" like leaving a sponge in a patient during surgery or providing a patient with incompatible blood or blood products. In many aspects of life, the best way to deter behavior is to hit those who commit it in the wallet. That's what CMS is hoping will work here. Private insurers could well follow. If human nature holds true and the new policy prompts fewer misuses of devices and cuts down on other errors, then many lives and dollars could be saved. The healthcare system is vast and slow to change, so it's not a guarantee that the new policy will achieve its goal, but it's worth a try.

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