medical mistakes cost nearly 20 billion in 2008

The Society of Actuaries recently released the results of a study aimed at uncovering the total cost of preventable medical errors nationwide. The results were incredible.

In 2008, medical errors cost the United States’ economy an estimated $19.5 billion, and that is only the cost of medical errors that were measurable. In the same year, these preventable medical errors constituted a full 25 percent of costs associated with medical injuries and malpractice.

In nearly every healthcare debate, injured patients and grieving families are blamed for current healthcare costs. Medical malpractice lawsuits are railed against and reward caps are proposed as a one-size-fits-all solution.

Still, “87 percent of actuaries believe that reducing medical errors is an effective way to control healthcare cost trends for the commercial population, and 88 percent believe this to be true for the Medicare population.”

Out of all the medical injuries discussed in the report, a mere handful accounted for more than 50 percent of total costs associated with medical error. These were:

  • Pressure ulcers, also known as bedsores
  • Postoperative infections
  • Complications arising from mechanical devices, implants and grafts
  • Hemorrhaging, or intense bleeding, during a medical procedure
  • Post-laminectomy syndrome, which includes intense pain and discomfort following surgery to relieve a compressed nerve.

It seems that a long-term, cost-effective solution to the country’s current healthcare crisis is a long and hard look at our medical system. By acknowledging its shortcomings, and comprehensively addressing them, the U.S. can save both money and lives.

Related Resource

  • Society of Actuaries Study Finds Medical Errors Annually Cost at Least $19.5 Billion Nationwide (Society of Actuaries Press Release)

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