Beginning this week, Medicare is fining hospitals that have too
many patients readmitted due to complications within 30 days of
discharge. This leads to the question of who gets sued if a patient
dies -- and what will this mean for non-profit, church-operated
Dr. Jane Orient, executive director of the Association of
American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS), says hospitals will be
the ones facing any lawsuits.
"It's kind of pointless to
sue Medicare," she says. "Medicare will say it is the doctor's
responsibility to decide whether the patient needs admission."
What about the Hippocratic Oath that medical professionals take?
Is Medicare, which is imposing these new penalties as part of
language in the new healthcare law, saying it knows better than
"Oh, of course Medicare knows best, and it's going to improve
quality and improve outcomes by its reimbursement policies -- that
everybody is going to get well and stay well if we only punish
people for taking care of them when they're sick," Dr. Orient
describes the premise behind the decision.
"Of course, this is just completely absurd. We know that this
has to lead to encouraging the early demise of patients."
Also, Orient says no one should rely on the Oath of Hippocrates, adding that physicians
are not taking that anymore, and the oath that they do take often
has been modified to exclude things like "do no harm."
Meanwhile, there are serious concerns for non-profit and
church-affiliated hospitals. According to Kaiser Health News, more than 2,000 hospitals,
including some nationally recognized ones, will forfeit about $280
million in Medicare funds for excess readmissions.
"I think there is concern that the hospitals that will suffer
from this the most are the ones who provide the most conscientious
care and who really try to give every patient the best possible
opportunity to recover," Orient indicates.