Pay Up, Or Die

Nobody likes getting sick.  And nobody likes paying bills.  So when you get sick and find yourself in a hospital, you may find yourself on the receiving end of rather aggressive attention from bill collectors embedded into hospital staffs before you even receive your treatments. Hospitals are increasingly finding themselves holding the bag for unpaid healthcare bills when patients are either unwilling or unable to pay.  And they have taken steps to ensure that they get paid.  The problem is that the steps they’ve taken may be illegal, and they’re certainly unethical.

Say, for example, you get sick and don’t have insurance.  You go to the ER, as any normal person would, only to find yourself sitting down with someone you assume is on the staff of the hospital, only to start receiving demands for payment upfront.  Odd?  Yes.  This is a new tactic.  And it’s one that’s starting to appear in hospitals more and more.

As far as I know, the US is the only country in the world that profits from people getting sick.  The fact of the matter is that as a society, we don’t let people die when they need healthcare, simply because they’re not able to pay for it.  Hospitals need to get paid, yes.  But installing debt collectors into hospital staff is not the way to go about it.  One reasonable avenue to pursue would be to let the Affordable Healthcare and Patient Protection Act take effect, compelling everyone to have insurance coverage.

It’s a mandated market-based initiative that would be cost effective, and would, over the long term, probably save trillions of dollars.  Why?  If everyone has insurance, then they’re not going to be bankrupted by simply getting sick, more likely to get preventative care that forestalls more serious health problems from becoming particularly severe and requiring ever more expensive treatments and interventions.

But for now, as the country continues to rehash the constitutionality of a bill that clearly falls under the jurisdiction of the federal government that would solve this problem, thousands of Americans will find themselves in hospital beds, sick and in pain, wondering what their future holds for them, only to find themselves speaking with undercover debt collectors, on the receiving end of an interrogation as to how they’ll pay for the services that they’ve just received or are about to receive.  What kind of a country have we become that we find this acceptable?  I, for one, hope that we do not find this acceptable.


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