Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Some hospitals rake in high profits while their patients are loaded with medical debt

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The Canadian healthcare system is by no means perfect, but IMO it’s much better than the rapacious hypercapitalistic US system where the drive to grow profits penalizes patients. Noam Levey reports for NPR:

PROSPER, Texas [ironic name, eh? – LG] — Almost everything about the opening of the 2019 Prosper High School Eagles’ football season was big.

The game in this Dallas-Fort Worth suburb began with fireworks and a four-airplane flyover. A trained eagle soared over the field. And some 12,000 fans filled the team’s new stadium, a $53 million colossus with the largest video screen of any high school venue in Texas. Atop the stadium was also a big name: Children’s Health.

Business has been good for the billion-dollar pediatric hospital system, which agreed to pay $2.5 million to put its name on the Prosper stadium. Other Dallas-Fort Worth medical systems have also thrived. Though exempt from taxes as nonprofit institutions, several, including Children’s, notched double-digit margins in recent years, outperforming many of the area’s Fortune 500 companies.

But patients aren’t sharing in the good times. Of the nation’s 20 most populous counties, none has a higher concentration of medical debt than Tarrant County, home to Fort Worth. Second is Dallas County, credit bureau data show.

The mismatched fortunes of hospitals and their patients reach well beyond this corner of Texas. Nationwide, many hospitals have grown wealthy, spending lavishly on advertising, team sponsorships, and even spas, while patients are squeezed by skyrocketing medical prices and rising deductibles.

A KHN review of hospital finances in the country’s 306 hospital markets found that several of the most profitable markets also have some of the highest levels of patient debt.

Overall, about a third of the 100 million adults in the U.S. with health care debt owe money for a hospitalization, according to a poll conducted by KFF for this project. Close to half of those owe at least $5,000. About a quarter owe $10,000 or more.

Many are pursued by collectors when they can’t pay their bills or hospitals sell the debt.

“The fact is, if you walk into a hospital today, chances are you are going to walk out with debt, even if you have insurance,” said Allison Sesso, chief executive of RIP Medical Debt, a nonprofit that buys debt from hospitals and debt collectors so patients won’t have to pay it.

A community shadowed by debt

Across the Dallas-Fort Worth metro area — the nation’s fourth-largest — the impact has been devastating.

“Medical debt is forcing people here to make incredibly agonizing choices,” said Toby Savitz, programs director at Pathfinders, a Fort Worth nonprofit that assists people with credit problems. Savitz estimated that at least half their clients have medical debt. Many are scrimping on food, neglecting rent, even ending up homeless, she said, “and this is not just low-income people.”

David Zipprich, a Fort Worth businessman and grandfather, was forced out of retirement after hospitalizations left him owing more than $200,000.

Zipprich, 64, had spent a career in financial consulting. He owned a small bungalow in a historical neighborhood near the Fort Worth rail yards. His daughters, both teachers, and his four grandchildren lived nearby. He had health insurance and some savings, and he’d paid off his mortgage.

Then in early 2020, Zipprich landed in the hospital. While driving, his blood sugar dropped precipitously, causing him to black out and crash his car.

Three months later, after he was diagnosed with diabetes, another complication led to another hospitalization. In December 2020, covid-19 put him there yet again. “I look back at that year and feel lucky I even survived,” Zipprich said.

But even with insurance, Zipprich was inundated with debt notices and calls from collectors. His credit score plummeted below 600, and he had to refinance his home. “My stress was off the charts,” he said, sitting in his neatly kept living room with his Shih Tzu, Murphy.

Overall in Tarrant County, 27% of residents with credit reports have medical debt on their records, credit bureau data analyzed by KHN and the nonprofit Urban Institute shows. In Dallas County, it’s 22%.

That’s more than five times the . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

28 September 2022 at 12:08 pm

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