Legislators Approve Bill Requiring NJ To Publicize Hospital Errors

TRENTON – The state Senate unanimously approved a bill requiring the Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) to publicly report certain preventable patient safety errors at New Jersey’s hospitals on June 18, by a vote of 39-0. The legislation now goes to the governor for his signature.

“The best thing New Jersey can do to improve the safety of health care in our State is to allow free-market principles and business competition to drive patient safety improvements,” said state Sen. Joseph F. Vitale Vitale, D-Middlesex, and chairman of the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee.

“Health care consumers deserve to know how safe hospitals and other health care facilities are, and they deserve to be able to compare patient safety records at different facilities.  By creating a more informed health care consumer, we’re putting the spotlight on health care facilities that aren’t living up to their patient safety responsibilities, and forcing them to do better in order to remain economically competitive.”

The bill, S-2471, would require DHSS to include in the annual New Jersey Hospital Performance Report certain patient safety indicators and preventable medical errors on a hospital-by-hospital basis.

DHSS would be required to report information on 14 pre-established patient safety indicators, including: foreign body left after medical procedure; postoperative hemorrhage or hematoma; postoperative sepsis; accidental puncture or laceration; or surgery performed on the wrong side, wrong body part, or wrong patient.

The patient safety indicators listed in the bill were developed by the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality or are listed by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) as “never” events that are not eligible for payment under Medicare or Medicaid.

The sponsors noted that the information would be available to the public to allow them to make more informed decisions about their health care, and would put pressure on poor performing hospitals to do more to ensure patient safety in New Jersey.

The bill would also prohibit hospitals or physicians from charging a patient or third-party payer for certain medical errors or hospital-acquired conditions, which are ineligible for reimbursement under the CMS-established medical error guidelines.

The sponsors noted that asking a patient to pay for treatment of a preventable medical error is unfair, particularly since many health insurers, including Medicaid and Medicare, do not cover treatment for preventable medical errors.

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