This WSJ article is really scary.
Hospitals are adopting a policy to improve their finances: making medical care contingent on upfront payments. Typically, hospitals have billed people after they receive care. But now, pointing to their burgeoning bad-debt and charity-care costs, hospitals are asking patients for money before they get treated.
Hospitals say they have turned to the practice because of a spike in patients who don’t pay their bills. Uncompensated care cost the hospital industry $31.2 billion in 2006, up 44% from $21.6 billion in 2000, according to the American Hospital Association.
The bad debt is driven by a larger number of Americans who are uninsured or who don’t have enough insurance to cover medical costs if catastrophe strikes. Even among those with adequate insurance, deductibles and co-payments are growing so big that insured patients also have trouble paying hospitals.
The story is built around the case of a Lake Jackson woman who contracted leukemia and has had to pay tens of thousands of dollars in cash up front to MD Anderson Hospital to receive care. Read it and ask yourself what might happen to you if you were in her position.
On a related note, since many long-term illnesses are really disabilities of some kind, you might care to know what the Presidential candidates’ positions are on the subject. Michael Berube explains it all to you, in detail. Check it out.