Jerry Ansley has had a pretty tough time, catching encephalitis, going to the hospital alot, and losing his life savings because whatever level of health insurance he had wasn’t enough. The good news is that after lots of pressure Univ of North Carolina Medical Center has relented on its legal claim to go after his house—all he had left. Nice, eh.
This is the kind of horror story that we’re going to see lots and lots more of in the coming years—especially next year when Jonathan Cohn is going to become a big media star after his sifting through the appalling underbelly of the insurance market, or the lack of it, appears in print.
“Of course if UNC didn’t charge the uninsured 3,4,5, times the ACCEPTABLE amount they take from insurers maybe those people with UNWANTED medical bills could pay them and not have their homes confiscated by the state.”
I’m sorry to say, Peter, that your understanding of how hospital chargemasters work is quite lacking. Every patient diagnosed and treated in the same way gets charged the same way – insured or not. It just so happens that the insured patient ends up paying a fraction of the cost, since their insurance carrier pays the rest. It’s not as if a hospital charges Insured Patient A $200 for a procedure and then, once discovering that Uninsured Patient B is, in fact, uninsured, decides to charge them $11,000 for the same procedure. That’s just not how it works.
By the way, it’s the INSURANCE COMPANIES who pay varying and discounted rates – not the patients.
Wouldn’t it be great if all hospitals had the AG’s Office to use to collect their bills. The AG’s office has unlimited amounts of tax dollars to pursue bad debts and therefore does not have to consider the cost of collection. Of course if UNC didn’t charge the uninsured 3,4,5, times the ACCEPTABLE amount they take from insurers maybe those people with UNWANTED medical bills could pay them and not have their homes confiscated by the state. The AG’s Office acts like a debter’s prison. If UNC attains in-the-black balance sheets from taking peoples homes, what public good does that accomplish? As healthcare costs continue to outstrip inflation and wages more people who work hard and want to pay their bills will be at risk of loosing their homes. North Carolina pours millions into grants to successful businesses, millions into coastal subsidies for the wealthy who own property there, continues to cut taxes to the wealthy while increasing regressive taxes for those less wealthy and has one of the lowest cigarette taxes in the nation while doing nothing to try and solve the healthcare crisis – except take families homes. Maybe NC should be asking itself why more and more indigents are using the UNC system and finding it necesary to use the ER for their primary care. How many of those using UNC for healthcare are illegals with minimum or less than minimum wages, which by the way, NC refuses to crack down on employers who hire them.
UNC Health Care provides the vast majority of the community’s emergency and indigent care. Until last year its balance sheet hadn’t been in the black in years and years (and to today lingers on falling back into negative numbers in any given quarter).
Going after the primary residence might’ve been a cold move but it was the Attorney General office’s decision, not the medical center’s. And arguing UNC shouldn’t have even tried to make collection efforts just doesn’t ring true. They operate like that, without at least cursory regard for their financial status, and watch what happens to the quality of care for the uninsured…