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Why are we paying medical bills for Hospital Acquired MRSA?

If this was MRSA

If this was MRSA

A question looms around in my head all the time.  Why are we, or our insurers paying for Healthcare acquired MRSA?  I don’t get it.

If I went to a fast food restaurant and had a ‘bad’ burger, then became voilently sick or died because of it, I could sue them or my family could.  Or I may even be able to convince the restaurant owner, without the benefit of a lawyer but with documents to prove the illness, that they owe me compensation for my illness.

Mind you, MRSA isn’t neatly wrapped like a burger, so it isn’t as blatant or obvious when the infection arrives.  MRSA comes on the dirty hands of a caregiver, or on contaminated equipment, or in a dirty environment. But, if a hospitals dishes out MRSA and a patient becomes infected or dies, they still get a bill, and the hospital fully intends to collect that money.  If the patient doesn’t get the bill, their insurer does and they pay!   I know of a man who was sued by his hospital (who gave him MRSA) because he refused to pay his bill!  Something is gravely wrong with this picture.  He has still refused to pay his bill and they had not dropped their suit the last I knew.  I know a woman who has recently lost her home becasue of a MRSA disability.  Yet another has her son in a program that should be 8 to 10 weeks long, but she can only afford 4 weeks.  He was infected with MRSA after a sponge was left in his face during facial surgery following an auto accident. She just had to leave him in California because there was not similar program in Hawaii, where he contracted his MRSA.   Another lost her business, again MRSA disability.  Another spent all of her life savings after her catatrophic health insurance ran out.  And on and on it goes.  Oh, and lets not forget that my own mother lost the love or her life and her husband of 61 years because of MRSA.  Nobody can put $$$$ signs on that.   All of these people were billed or their insurance companies were billed for preventable MRSA.  None of them are able to get any kind of compensation for the error that their  hospitals made that caused their infections. 

There is no doubt that my father’s MRSA was hospital acquired. He went in with a minor injury and became ill with a major deadly illness, MRSA Pneumonia.  It is indisputable that he got that illness while hospitalized.  Fortunately for him and my mother, he worked very hard during his life and he had excellent insurance benefits.  His private insurance and medicare paid for all of his hospital bills.  My opinion is that the insurance company should NOT have paid his bills and neither should my mother have paid.   If the hospital dishes out infections, they should absorb the cost, every single penny of it. They should also have paid his costs for the nursing home, which he did not have coverage for.  My parents paid that from their life savings.  Neither patients nor insurers should be paying for preventable infections.

Medicare has started refusing to reimburse for some infections, but HA MRSA is not on the list yet, unless it is a urinary tract infection becasue of a catheter.  I believe this is the case.  Medicare should not pay for any hospital acquired infections, including MRSA.  If this were the case, we would see a fast and huge drop in infection rates immediately.  Hospitals would make the necessary changes, regardless of cost, to stop the infections.  Anything they would pay would be less than what the cost of these infections is.

My Maine Quality forum meetings have been contentious and arduous to go through.  But, we are making progress.  The one thing that makes me want to pull my hair out is when they bring up cost.  I realize that cost is an issue, but it is also an issue to patients, their families and insurers. How long do they think people will put up with paying for infections , serious horrible infections, that hospitals dish out.  Preventable life threatening infections such as HA MRSA should not happen, and patients should definitely not be billed for their care if a hospital is responsible for the infection.  It is adding insult to injury…literally. Or should I say it is adding infection to injury?

Representatives from hospitals all over Maine come to the Maine Quality Forum meetings.  I know that some of the smaller  hospitals struggle with finances.  But, money spent on infection prevention is money well spent.  Any money spent on MRSA screening will come back to them  in reduced infections in their facilities and reduced expenses that they  sometimes absorb.

I attended a meeting of the Northern Infection control collaborative.  It was held in one of Eastern Maine Healthcare’s new buildings in Brewer Maine.  I went through heavy huge glass doors and elaborate hallways to attend this meeting.  My guess is that the cost of the glass alone (on the two floors of that EMH building that I was on)  would, if redirected to MRSA prevention, would pay for an entire MRSA prevention program for one (or more)  of our smaller hospitals.

I never want to hear about MRSA prevention  cost  in these meetings again.   I have read and heard enough from hospital representatives,  about the cost of MRSA prevention,  and how MRSA is the patients  own fault and that MRSA is “just part of doing business” and there “is nothing they can do about it”  etc.  I want to hear about how our hospitals will stop these infections and if they are unable to do that, how they will compensate the suffering victims (or their survivors) of Hospital Acquired MRSA and other HA infections.

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