Pa. Measure Would Grant Premium Break for Reducing Medical Errors

September 23, 2005

Pennsylvania State Rep. Phyllis Mundy this week explained to fellow lawmakers why they should approve a bill she has introduced to cut down on medical errors and rein in health-care inflation.

Mundy’s legislation (H.B. 743) would provide a 20 percent discount on medical malpractice premiums to health-care providers that implement a total quality management system designed to reduce medical errors, improve patient outcomes and reduce health-care costs. Mundy secured House passage of her proposal in 2003 by attaching it to a broader patient safety bill, but the Senate failed to act on that legislation.

At a House Insurance Committee hearing this week, she said the bill could give Pennsylvania a competitive advantage.

“Health-care inflation is killing our nation’s economy. Despite offers of hundreds of millions of dollars in incentives from the states, Toyota has recently announced that it will build its new factory in Canada, in part because they can no longer afford health care in the U.S. for their employees. Because of inaction at the federal level to control health-care costs or to fix our broken health-care financing system, we at the state level are left to fend for ourselves.”

Mundy provided several examples of how health-care providers around the country are reining in costs and reducing errors by using ISO 9000, a total quality management system.

Mundy also cited reports on the prevalence of medical mistakes. According to a study by the Institute of Medicine at Harvard University, as many as 98,000 people die each year in the U.S. as a result of preventable medical errors. The same study also cited medical errors as the fifth-leading cause of death in the nation.

The Pennsylvania Health Care Cost Containment Council reports that 7.5 out of 1,000 hospital patients contracted a hospital-acquired infection in 2004. Of those, 15.4 percent died – that’s more than six times higher than a hospital’s mortality rate of patients without hospital-acquired infections. In addition, hospital-acquired infections caused patients anywhere from an extra 7-to-26-day hospital stay.

According to Mundy, fewer medical errors mean fewer lawsuits, lower insurance payouts and lower health-care costs. A number of medical facilities across the country are currently using total quality management systems such as ISO 9000, Baldrige and Six Sigma and have experienced positive outcomes as a result.

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