An elderly person should be able to spend time with their families and enjoy life in a way they couldn’t when they were younger and working full- time. They certainly should not be worried whether or not the medical care they receive will, at best, cause an adverse reaction that was completely avoidable or, in a worst case scenario, kill them. Unfortunately, that is the reality for Medicare recipients around this country: in a recently released study, it was reported that, in just one month, a projected 15,000 hospitalized Medicare patients died because they received less than quality care.
Around 40 million Americans receive Medicare, a federally funded program that provides health insurance coverage to people aged 65 or over. The Department of Health and Human Services Inspector General’s new report has revealed that there is an alarmingly high risk for medical malpractice within the program. According to the study, 1 in 7 Medicare patients who are hospitalized are harmed by—and ultimately die because of—medical treatment they receive. Common causes of these deaths include improper use of blood thinning medications, respiratory failure from over sedation or inadequate insulin management. Another 1 in 7 patients experienced temporary harm, but the error was discovered in reversed just in time to save their lives.
There are no words to convey how frightening this news is, not just for Medicare recipients, but also for their families. When someone is hospitalized, they tend to focus on their recovery. With this news, patients and their families are left to question whether or not the treatment they receive will do more harm than good. Of course, there is also a societal cost: taxpayers spend more than $4 billion each year because additional treatments or longer hospital stays are needed to fix medical mistakes that should never have happened.
It is clear that there needs to be federally funded look into the way hospitals perceive and care for Medicare patients. Their safety measures need to be examined and, when necessary, changed immediately. If there are best practices for treatment, they should be implemented.
Unbelievably, Congress is considering cuts to the Medicare, so such an investigation is unlikely. And, with fewer dollars to provide services, more preventable deaths are to be expected.
The elderly are among the most vulnerable members of our society and, as a collective, we should work to keep them safe from harm. Call or write your elected officials and demand that they not only vote to keep Medicare funding intact, but also ask that they earmark additional funds to ensure that, when they are hospitalized, our elderly receive quality treatment at quality hospitals.