Faulty Medical Devices Spike Costs for Medicare, Beneficiaries

X-ray of the thorax with an pacemaker in place [Wikimedia]

Faulty pacemakers and implantable defibrillators that malfunctioned and needed to be replaced cost Medicare about $1.5 billion from 2005 through 2014, the New York Times reports. And that’s a conservative estimate that doesn’t include the out-of-pocket costs for this care, estimated to be at least $140 million, according to a report by the HHS inspector general’s office. It’s the first time the government studied the cost incurred by malfunctioning medical gear.

Researchers looked at seven types of defective heart devices, and found that nearly 73,000 people had to have them replaced “because of recalls, premature failures, medically necessary upgrades or infections,” the Times reported. The report did not get into the specifics about what harm patients suffered. Also, the manufacturers of the seven devices were not named.

Researchers suggested that one way to address the problem is for doctors at hospitals to track the failed devices by listing the serial numbers during the billing process.

The report stated: “This could help reduce Medicare costs by identifying poorly performing devices more quickly, which could also protect beneficiaries from unnecessary costs and improve their chances of receiving appropriate follow-up care more quickly.”

Source: New York Times