Articles Posted in BANKRUPTCY

bernie-225x300Critics have attacked Sen. Bernie Sanders for his proposal to wipe out $81 billion in medical debt, including by changing rules around debt collection and bankruptcy. He also called for “replacing the giant credit reporting agencies with a ‘public credit registry’ that would ignore medical debt when calculating credit scores,” reported the New York Times.

Well, there he goes again, with interesting but hard to execute ideas, critics replied to Sanders’ medical debt idea, dissecting it to pieces.

But dig into some of the news articles and important realities flare up. Even his critics concede that medical debt has become a nightmare for too many Americans, contributing in unacceptable fashion to family stress and anxiety and, more importantly, adding to the nightmare of medical bankruptcy.

uvahealthlogo-300x108Is a public pillorying the only way to stop big hospitals from pursuing patients for medical debt with the zeal of demons from the underworld?

The University of Virginia Health System — an enterprise that racked up an $87 million operating profit on revenue of $1.7 billion in the fiscal year ending in June and that holds stocks, bonds and other investments worth about $1 billion — has become the latest institution to get a journalistic blaming and shaming for extreme debt collection practices that would make proud Inspector Javert in Les Miserables.

The independent, nonpartisan Kaiser Health News Service and the Washington Post deserve credit for their investigation into UVA avariciousness. As KHN reported of the state operation:

census2019uninsuredrises-300x277The Grand Old Party may have just won the dictionary definition of a Pyrrhic Victory. That’s because Republicans’ decade-long assault on the Affordable Care Act his finally showing predictable results, with the share of Americans lacking health insurance increasing for the first time in 10 years.

The rate and number of people without health insurance increased from 7.9%, or 25.6 million, in 2017 to 8.5%, or 27.5 million, in 2018, officials reported.

The nation’s children got a kick in the face, too, with almost half a million more youngsters uninsured in 2018 versus 2017 — a decline attributable mostly to a reduction in the number of kids covered by safety net programs like Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program aka CHIP.

billssurprisefearof-300x228It may be bad for the blood pressure. But to understand a key reason why Americans seethe when talking about medical bills and medical costs, just start perusing a timely new magazine report on hospitals and debt collection.

The Atlantic article — “What Happens When You Don’t Pay a Hospital Bill” — details the horrors and frustrations experienced by Joclyn Krevat, an occupational therapist in New York. She sought medical care for what she thought was a nasty case of flu. She, instead, suffered from a severe heart inflammation — and ended up undergoing a costly and physically draining heart transplant.

Weak, sick, and on the brink, Krevat still was hounded by out-of-control debt collectors — cruel men and women who not only lack hearts of their own but who engage in relentless, often ridiculous tactics (like trying to connect on social media, just to harp on patients there about their bills) to wring pennies out of those with illness and injury, reported writer Olga Khazan.

Praise be: Churches nationwide are leaping in with their congregations’ blessing and financial support, putting up small sums to buy up and wipe out one of the huge shames of the American health care system: patients’ medical debt.

The faithful work with RIP Medical Debt, a nonprofit organization based in Rye, N.Y., that provides the know-how to many kinds of donors to help eliminate bills that can crush patients and their loved ones for a lifetime, the Kaiser Health News service reported. Roxie Hammill wrote how this all works in modern medicine:

alexanderlamar-150x150murraypatty-150x150Doctors, hospitals, health insurers, and Big Pharma have become so abusive to patients with their billing and pricing that they may have accomplished what many consider a political impossibility   ̶  angering Democrats and Republicans in Congress as well as the White House, pushing them all toward bipartisan legislation and executive actions.

Don’t bet on the exact outcome of the latest stirrings. They’re grist for a surge in coverage by the New York Times (click here), Washington Post (here), Wall Street Journal (here),  Kaiser Health News (here), Modern Health Care (here), Stat (here), and Pro Publica (here). The stories point out that the partisan divide is too great for Congress and the White House to get near serious work on big health care-related issues like improving the Affordable Care Act.

So, instead, as the articles report, lawmakers are taking varying approaches to attack medical billing, particularly so-called surprise bills (out-of-pocket charges patients get hit with when they get medical services from providers outside their health insurance networks) and balance billing, when medical providers chase patients for charges above what they’ve already recouped from insurers. Health reporters have drilled down on stories about such billing outrages. Drug and hospitals prices also are big targets.

hospitalpricebystaterand-300x185Big businesses, which beat on their employees to be more cost-conscious, efficient, and productive, may need to take a page out of their own books if they hope to better control the soaring health care costs that they’re also shoving off onto their workers.

That’s a key takeaway from new research by the independent, nonprofit RAND Corporation into prices paid in 25 states to 70 hospital systems by job-provided health insurers in 2017. They provide coverage for most Americans, more than 180 million of us, and RAND found that private employer-sponsored health plans paid hospitals on average twice or even three times as much as Uncle Sam did through the Medicare program for the same services at the same hospitals.

Hospitals bellyache about tight-fisted Medicare prices that Uncle Sam can negotiate due to big dollars and huge number of patients covered under its senior health care plan. Although hospitals call the government-negotiated prices too low and an unfair benchmark, they provide realistic insights into hospitals’ bottom-line charges in what is one of the biggest areas of Americans’ health care costs. As RAND researcher Christopher Whaley told Modern Healthcare, an industry-covering news organization:

commonwealth-underinsured-300x216Republicans got their heads handed to them in the midterms because they bungled a decade of efforts to eliminate public options on health insurance, the House minority leader has conceded. But he and other lawmakers, as well as corporate bosses, may face greater political fallout for failing to deal with a bigger health coverage nightmare for  Americans: workplace insurance plans.

More than half of Americans 65 or younger — 150 million-plus — get employer health insurance, while just a quarter of us buy plans on individual markets or get covered by Medicaid, reported the nonpartisan, respected Commonwealth Fund.

Republicans, in control of the House and Senate and now the White House, have ripped at the Affordable Care Act since its passage — although Obamacare has expanded and improved options for those uncovered on the job, including protections for preexisting conditions. Lawmakers in the meantime largely have left alone employer plans.

crowdfunding-300x150Although the sky-high cost of providing medical care to sick or injured friends and loved ones might seem good reason to encourage community altruism to the nth degree, new technologies that have made it easy, fast, and convenient to “crowd source” online donations also may be sending well-intentioned gifts to dubious and dangerous types of treatment.

A new  study by researchers in Atlanta and New York shows that campaigns on GoFundMe and other social media platforms, sought to raise tens of millions of dollars, and brought in millions for sketchy health-related applications. Experts found “1,059 campaigns that raised money for five unproven or possibly risky treatments: homeopathy or naturopathy for cancer, hyperbaric oxygen for brain injury, experimental stem cell therapy for brain or spinal cord injuries, and long-term antibiotics for chronic Lyme disease,” reported Stat, an online health and medicine news site.

CNN reported that online solicitations were targeted to allow patients to seek dubious therapies at “clinics” in Germany and Mexico (homeopathic or naturopathic cancer care), New Orleans (hyperbaric oxygen for brain injury), and Panama, Thailand, India, China, and Mexico (“stem cell” treatment).

sessions-300x200As voters make up their minds about this fall’s mid-term races, they may wish to burn into their memories how the Trump Administration has dealt, so far, and especially in recent days, with government social programs that have huge effects on Americans’ health and lives.

Take, for example, the late-week, late night announcement by the U.S. Department of Justice that it will decline to defend yet another part of the Affordable Care Act, as 19 states, most red and led by Texas, attack Obamacare in the courts. The legal aspects of this decision will keep lots of law degree holders and their kindred men and women in black robes arguing, heatedly, for a while. There also may be huge political smoke clouds.

But keep in mind this basic fact from the actions by the Justice Department led by Attorney General Jeff Sessions: The nation’s crack legal team is asserting that it is unconstitutional for the ACA to bar insurers from declining coverage due to preexisting conditions.

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