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Is Medicare increasing patients' risks for medical malpractice?

One of the most important functions assigned to doctors is to make the best decision for their patients under any circumstances. The Hippocratic Oath requires that doctors practice medicine honestly and keep patients from harm, but what if outside influences create a conflict of interest for doctors?

Federal rules regarding Medicare may be influencing doctors’ decisions that are not necessarily in the best interest of their patients. The two-midnight rule, which requires doctors to make a determination that a patient’s condition is serious enough to justify two nights in the hospital, governs when a patient qualifies for inpatient rate reimbursement. Patients whose care does not require admission may incur out-of-pocket expenses for their care.

In addition to the patient’s potential out-of-pocket requirements, hospitals may be fined if they admit a patient to help the patient qualify for Medicare when federal auditors decide that outpatient care would have been sufficient.

Connecticut patients who depend upon Medicare for their health care should remain vigilant about the requirements of the program. However, medical professionals must make the right decision for their patients, regardless of any outside influences about payment or any other conflicts. 

A doctor who does not follow this rule may be committing medical malpractice, especially if the decision causes further complications for the patient. For legal and ethical purposes, doctors must follow the principles of the oath they are required to take. An attorney may be able to better explain your rights, should you feel that you are the victim of hospital negligence.

Source: USA Today, “Hospitals, regulators spar over in-patient care policy,” Jayne O’Donnell, July 13, 2014

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