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Maine MRSA screening, fiscal note

A a very supportive Senator informed me that there has been a fiscal note attached to my bill, Maine LD 1038.
We got one tiny part of the LD 1038 passed, and that is mandatory high risk screening. It may be small, but high risk screening is the first step in MRSA prevention in the State of Maine.
A Screening test costs between $0 and $100 in the State of Maine. There is no set price, but a fair average is around $20. I guess the actual charge to the patient is according to whether or not your hospital is going to put it to you on the price. If a person is found to be MRSA positive, and decolonization is started, a it can save a patient’s life or limb. It can also save other patients from being exposed to an unknown MRSA colonization or infection. So far that $20 screening culture is a good deal all around.

Now I will talk about my father’s expenses. If he had not been infected in his hospital while he worked to rehabilitate from a minor fracture he would be here today. Instead we buried him May 8th. So, the ultimate cost to Dad was his life. I cannot put a dollar sign on that.

However, his expenses for the hospital and doctors for 20 days for the infection and the complications he suffered because of the infection was about $30,000. Then when they deemed him “well enough” to be discharged, he went to a nursing home for almost 10 weeks to the tune of around $17,000. That amount was paid out of his life savings. No offer ever came from the hospital to help cover that expense, even though the hospital was responsible for his infection. My parents are not rich but they had a little too much money to qualify for Mainecare. And, because Dad was no longer at home or in hospital, they had to pay for his oxygen equipment out of pocket too. Dad’s prescription meds were also covered by his insurance except for his $2 copay for each one. The expense to the insurance company for his meds is unknown. But, I do know it was substantial. So, the total cost to my parents and their insurances for his MRSA Pneumonia was between $47,000 and $50,000.

If mandatory screening prevented, let’s say 4 invasive MRSA infections a year, in his small hospital alone, (and I KNOW it will prevent many more than that), the savings would be $200,000 in expenses to those 4 patient and their insurances. My father’s MRSA infection would be considered a “simple” and inexpensive case of MRSA because it didn’t involve numerous repeated surgeries to clean out pus and dead or infected tissue from a joint or belly or chest caused by MRSA. Many joint, chest or belly MRSA infections involve repeated surgeries. My guess is that those infections would cost up to $100,000 or much more. One of my new friends who lost his wife because of MRSA after having an ovarian cyst removed, stated that his wife’s bills added up to a half million dollars before she died. She had repeated surgeries and lost part of her intestines because of MRSA. For the purpose of “fiscal” notes, we will say that an average invasive Hospital Acquired MRSA infection costs $50,000. My father’s hospital has 25 beds. Of course we do not know their rate of MRSA, but I do know that 2 people died of MRSA after Joint replacements in the month prior to Dad’s first hospital admission. My educated guess is that their infections cost their families much more than $50,000. If their infections and Dad’s infections had been prevented, and they had lived and been discharge home to their loving families, there would have been a minimum of $150,000(more likely over $200,000) in savings to them, their families and insurance companies. That savings would have been for preventing those 3 infections in one month alone.
For the sake of making a solid guess on savings to famlies and hospitals by prevention of just 3 infections in a month’s time, I believe $150,000 is more than fair. Now if that number of infections is the average number for every month, it would be over a million dollars savings in a year. I hope to God I am wrong in stating there would be 3 invasive MRSA infectons that caused death in my father’s hospital every month, but I do know as fact that happened the month my father was first admitted. It may be nicer for me to just say that screening and contact isolation may prevent 3 simple HA MRSA Infections per month in my fathers hospital.c
To give my father’s hospital a huge benifit of the doubt and it is difficult for me to do that….we will guess that there is $500,000 spent out by patients and their insurances on invasive hospital acquired MRSA infections from my fathers 25 bed hospital every year. This amount would be a very conservative amount to say the least. Of course at this time MRSA infections are not reported, so we have no way of knowing for sure how many infections there really are in Maine Hospitals. But, again, giving Dad’s hospital a huge benifit of the doubt, we will guess that there would be a savings of $500,000 on MRSA infections a year in his 25 bed hospital.

Now we can look at the hospitals side of this. It is good “fiscal” business for hosptials to care for MRSA infected patients. It makes the hospital money. Just how much money it makes for the hospital? We can’t say for sure. Patients who are infected in hospitals spend a lot more inpatient days, spend tens of thousands more dollars for their care, and often times become reinfected so they are readmitted and it costs even more. Then of course they can only stay for just so long in an acute care setting, so they must find either long term care, or at home care after discharge. But, I am only covering the in hospital expense in this post. It’s sad to say, but these infections are huge money maker for hospitals, doctors, pharmceutical companies, protective gear companies etc. The antibiotics alone (around $200 a dose for IV Vancomycin) make a huge profit for the hospital. I really want to give the hospitals credit here and say they want to STOP HOSPITAL INFECTIONS, but the reality is that hospitals make a fortune on these infections. Even more money is made on studies and research.

And there is more benefit to hospitals regarding these infections. They are not held legally or morally liable in any way for these infections. If a surgeon cuts off the wrong leg, patients can sue a hospital and the doctor and be compensated for their pain, suffering and loss. I challenge anyone reading this post to tell me of ONE SINGLE SETTLEMENT in Maine over a MRSA infection that was contracted inside hospital walls. It is nearly unheard of. There is not one iota of doubt that my father contracted his infection in his hospital. In fact we were told more than once by his physicians that he contracted it in his hospital. But my research revealed that very few legal settlements have been made because of hospital acquired MRSA. There was however a huge settlement in a prison when many prisoners contracted MRSA…I know…this is off subject. My point here is that hospitals make a lot of money on MRSA infections and they are not held accountible (financially, legally or otherwise) in any way for those infections.

We learned in our work with MRSA that screening tests are already covered by insurance when they are done in the more progressive hospitals in Maine that are already doing some MRSA screenings. And we learned that federal stimulus money is available for programs to prevent Hospital Acquired Infections. So, a Maine fiscal note attached to high risk MRSA Screening for all of Maine is bogus.

The cost of mandatory screening is about $20 a pop. I don’t know the number of hospital admissions per year at my father’s 25 bed hospital, nor do I know how many of those patients would be considered at high risk for MRSA,, but the fact is they would NOT be doing over 20,000 high risk MRSA screenings per year. The savings that I guessed above…$500,00…. would cover more than 20,000 high risk screenings. Whatever is left over would undoubtedly be a huge savings for hospitals, patients and their insurance providers.

The savings to patients in terms of pain, suffering, death and devastating disabliity….PRICELESS.

The talk of cost for these infections is very difficult for me to discuss. My father, my family and I are personally hurt and harmed by MRSA that was caused by lax infection control in a hospital. Dad is gone. It hits me often how final that is. This is grief and sadness I have never before experienced. So, to hear that my State Governement wants to put a dollar sign on a solid proven MRSA preventative step makes me very angry.

  1. Carol McCleary
    May 10th, 2009 at 19:21 | #1

    This bill was proposed with the highest regard for human life. If anyone could have witnessed my father-in-law’s four months of misery, they would agree that this legislation needs to move quickly. Opposition to this bill because of the paperwork bureaucracy and cost are inexcusable and baseless arguments that I believe are misleading. How anyone could put a price on a human life, is beyond my comprehension.

  2. October 22nd, 2011 at 10:58 | #2

    That was very good, waitin’ for more about this.

  3. October 22nd, 2011 at 17:06 | #3

    I’m impressed how marvelous this blog is. well done!

  4. October 24th, 2011 at 03:08 | #4

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