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Medical Payment Collection Gone Wild

August 1, 2012

By Brian L. Grant, MD

Emergency rooms sit of the front lines of the health care payment crisis as they must provide care to all who come though many can’t afford to pay. Photo by Adam Gault / Digital Vision / Getty Images.

Emergency rooms  sit on the front lines of the health care payment crisis. On the one hand, they must provide care to all who come – by law, custom and ethics. On the other hand, the care is expensive and many can’t afford to pay. Many of the uninsured use ER’s as their care sources rather when they lack access to clinics and physicians. Creative companies have found ways to profit and help pay for the care provided. In this case, one such company crossed the line of decency and legality. Our fee for service health care system assumes that personal responsibility and solvency can be relied upon. Is society served by financial triage for essential or urgent medical needs?

One day not too far off, stories such as the one featured in the New York Times article “Medical Debt Collector to Settle Suit for $2.5 Million” will be looked at with the same shame we feel towards the discrimination practiced in our country based upon race and other factors in past decades. We would regard it as abhorrent to deny access to K-12 education for the poor. Why do we believe that different standards ought to apply to access to health care? Why should employers have the burden and responsibility of providing health care for their employees, rather than this be a basic part of the social contract as members of society?

Do we as citizens and particularly those of us who have chosen to enter the field of health care have obligations beyond caring for our patients – to address systemic shortcomings and abuses the adversely impact the public health? Or is medicine just a job, and our goals to maximize profit?
Read more here: “Medical Debt Collector to Settle Suit for $2.5 Million”

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. August 1, 2012 9:38 am

    health care is a problem. but I must add no social contract exists, it is a myth. there was a time when people took care of their own, including neighbors without gov help or mandates. it was called charity, people had more to give then relativly speaking because they were not taxed, regulated into poverty themselves. special interests groups like mega corp are usually behind these gov mandates so as to push out comeptitors and drive up costs which are born by the productive via taxation both visible and invisible and pocketed by the same corp.who can afford the extra regulations. it has nothing to do with helping the poor I hope you know that. the poor have always been used as a poltical tool to steal the rights/property of others without actually ending the plight of the poor. tho debt collections is a horrible thing as it is applied against people who neither the resources to afford care or pay the bill later when due. catch 22 here.
    rose

  2. August 14, 2012 10:45 am

    roberta4949 I have a hard time understanding where you’re coming from – I can assure you that if you came to NYC, none of your neighbors (present or past) would lend you a helping hand. The reality of the healthcare issue stems from the fact that not everyone is paying into the system, hence, we have higher premiums as a result. The Affordable Care Act is no more a mandate than the taxes taken out of our paychecks from social security (also a mandate) every month. I don’t think anyone consciously wakes up and says I’d like to be poor, underserved, and go to the emergency room every time they need care. Standardizing payments, making people accountable for their health, creating a somewhat socially responsible healthcare system – these are the first steps to mitigating the costs that you talk about. We are moving in the right direction – please don’t let lobbying groups fool you into thinking otherwise. Without Medicare, we would have baby boomers that would simply die early due to lack of care – should we take away Medicare or privatize it so “mega corps” take over? By providing transparency, efficiency, and accountability we are forcing doctors and the public to work together for the betterment of our countries health. We can actually see in real time if patients are being taken advantage of, false medicare claims are being processed, communities are becoming more/less health, etc. How else would we know if we are doing things right?

    Please take a look at the links below and you will find that without the new policies in place – the below will continue to hurt our system…

    http://oig.hhs.gov/fraud/fugitives/profiles.asp#echavez

    http://oig.hhs.gov/fraud/fugitives/captured_profiles.asp#egonzalez

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