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Feds To Release Bad Doctors List

NEW YORK (AP) - Federal health officials say they will allow Medicare beneficiaries to obtain information about doctors who made errors, a move that reverses a policy that kept medical mistakes secret for more than 20 years.

New Department of Health and Human Services rules, will permit patients to find out if their care meets professionally recognized standards and if there has been any action against their doctors or hospitals. Patients can use the information against the health care providers in lawsuits or other actions alleging substandard treatment.

Currently, federal law allows a group of medical quality experts to inform the patient of the final disposition of a complaint but information about a doctor can only be release with the doctor's consent.

The new policy, eliminates the doctors' veto power and comes in response to a lawsuit against the federal government by the son of a Medicare patient who died in a Jacksonville, Fla., hospital six days after being admitted because of an asthma attack. The Department of Health and Human Services told the Florida review organization to release the information to the patient's son. That lawsuit is still pending. The Department of Health and Human Services said it will change the Medicare policy to help other people obtain health care information as well.

Source: Associated Press & The New York Times  2 Jan 2001