Most Bankruptcies Caused By Health Problems Suffered By People With Health Insurance

A recent Harvard study tells us that health problems cause more than half of America’s bankruptcies, and that the vast majority of people seeking bankruptcy protection have health insurance. The study paints a hauntingly familiar picture: people get sick, insurance covers nothing, so they’re forced to mortgage their homes to stay alive.

[Medically] bankrupt families with private insurance reported average out-of pocket medical bills of $17,749, while the uninsured’s bills averaged $26,971. Of the families who started out with insurance but lost it during the course of their illness, medical bills averaged $22,658. “For middle-class Americans, health insurance offers little protection. Most of us have policies with so many loopholes, co-payments, and deductibles that illness can put you in the poorhouse,” said lead author Himmelstein. “Unless you’re Warren Buffett, your family is just one serious illness away from bankruptcy.”

[...]

They found that a number of medical factors contributed to a family’s financial disaster. More than 90% of medically related bankruptcies were caused by high medical bills directly or medical costs that were so high the family was forced to mortgage their home. The remaining 8% went bankrupt because a medical problem caused them to lose income. The authors were not able to track credit-card defaults caused by medical bills, but a 2007 study found that, of low- and middle-income households with credit-card debt, 29% used their plastic to pay off medical expenses.

So much for credit card companies trying to convince us that bankruptcies are caused by loose-willed spendthrifts with flat screens.

Study Links Medical Costs and Personal Bankruptcy [BusinessWeek]
(Photo: alvi2047)

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  1. balthisar says:

    I’d like to see that median instead of the average. $17,749 hardly seems like enough money to go bankrupt for, consider how much debt people willingly incur.
    (For lower income people, presumably they’d be uninsured, so what I’m presuming doesn’t apply to them.)

    • bohemian says:

      @balthisar: The problem is that providers can be insanely ruthless in pursuing those medical bills. Some want it all and they want it now. You might get 5-7 years to pay of a $17g car or 30 to pay off a $150k house. Medical providers want all that money you owe them, usually within a year or so. They will garnish wages or other tactics to the point people don’t have enough money left over to keep their other bills paid. Remember when someone racks up a big medical bill they are usually out of work at least for a while if not long term adding to the inability to pay off the bills.
      Medical providers will pursue those with assets because there is something to take much harder than the poor.

      • chakrabs says:

        @bohemian:
        As a medical student, I’m being tested on this tomorrow and its relevant: The average net worth of a white american man is over $100,000. Whereas, the average black man is has only about $16,000. Thus, one can see how many people can be bankrupted by excessive medical bills.

      • snowburnt says:

        @bohemian: I heard that if you make a small percentage of the amount due every month on a medical bill then they’re not allowed to pursue it any further…I’m probably wrong about that though.

    • Firethorn says:

      @balthisar:
      The problem is how leveraged most people already are. Could YOU go out and buy a new car (~20k) tommorow and pay it off within a year given all your other bills?

      Would you be able to do it without cutting back if it’s a 5 year low interest loan?

      BTW, my family has experience with co-pay hell, thus we go for plans that, if they have a copay, have maximum limits on them. That gets into getting the right insurance.

      Heck, it’s why I like HSP and HDIP plans – once the deductible is met, there’s no copays, 100% coverage. And don’t forget the ‘lost income’ insurance plans!

  2. Shoelace says:

    ‘the vast majority of people seeking bankruptcy protection have health insurance’

    The uninsured’s bills averaged $26,971. Families with insurance had medical bills averaging $17,749.

    I don’t get it. Shouldn’t the uninsured be the ones seeking bankruptcy protection?

    • CumaeanSibyl says:

      @Shoelace: They’re only talking about bankrupt families in that quote.

    • K-Bo says:

      @Shoelace: uninsured can usually work out a deal with the hospital.

      • Keavy_Rain says:

        @K-Bo: Not to mention they often give discounts to the uninsured.

        I had to go into the emergency room for an abscess. The bill was $1200 but I got that knocked down to $700 because I was uninsured.

        Worst part of all? The antibiotic shot the nurse gave me as I was leaving was $200 by itself! Good thing I found out the price after because if she told me the price before I would have hauled ass outta there and probably suffered some ill effects from the infection.

        If you haven’t seen it, check out Michael Moore’s “Sicko,” but skip the third act* and the Frontline episode “Sick Around the World.” Both offer good info on our messed up our HMO and PPO-based healthcare system.

        *Its a “feel good” thing where he takes a bunch of people who worked at Ground Zero on 9/11 first to Gitmo then Cuba for medical treatments they were denied or could not afford in the U.S. Its heartwarming, but comes off as typical Moore B.S.

    • Firethorn says:

      @Shoelace: I don’t get it. Shouldn’t the uninsured be the ones seeking bankruptcy protection?

      They are. It’s just that the majority of those seeking bankruptcy protection due to medical bills are insured. Which would be to be expected if healthcare insurance wasn’t supposed to even out unexpected expenses like insurance is supposed to do, but it is. Most people have insurance, but at a mere $9k difference in filing, I can’t help but think that Insurance isn’t as worth it as we might think. That’s less than most people’s annual premiums, after all…

      Still, the question would become one of how many people HAD good insurance that saved them from bankruptcy. How many people get short term disability insurance like Aflac advertises all the time?

      If you’re in a job where you don’t get paid if you don’t work, disability insurance to provide lost income when you’re sick and can’t work is critical.

  3. Esquire99 says:

    This demonstrates exactly why national healthcare isn’t the way to fix what’s wrong with the US healthcare system. Simply getting people insurance that will help cover some of their medical bills isn’t going to fix the problem. The insurance company, even if it’s the government, will always try to find a way out of paying. The real problem is the cost of healthcare. It’s simply out of control. A large part of that cost is due to ridiculously high malpractice insurance for doctors and the insane lawsuits that medical device and pharmaceutical manufacturers have to pay out. These are not the only factors, but they are prevalent ones. The solution, or at least part if it, is Tort reform. Limit the amount of damages that can be awarded in malpractice/pharmaceutical cases and insurance will go down (or at least stop going up). Further, pharmaceutical manufacturers should be granted longer patents on their drugs so that they can recoup their R&D over a longer period of time, thus lowering the costs of the drugs. National healthcare won’t fix the high cost of health care.

    • wvFrugan says:

      @Esquire99:
      Do you ever tire of hearing yourself spout & spin your disingenuous BS? We do!

      • It's not my baby, baby! says:

        @wvFrugan: Do you know what disingenuous means? You have used it improperly here. He was not being insincere. He means what he said.

        What I tire of is seeing people use words they have heard, that they think sound intelligent, incorrectly. Try posting something of your own rather than flame people who express their opinions!

    • theodicey says:

      @Esquire99: Let me get this straight.

      Extending patents, allowing drug cos to charge lots more for their drugs into the future, will decrease drug costs.

      Gen-i-us.

      • Esquire99 says:

        @theodicey:
        It can cost over $1bil to bring a drug to market. Drug companies only get patent protection for 20 years from when they discover a viable compound. By the time they spend another 5-10 years testing and finalizing the drug, they’ve only got ~10-12 years of patent protection left. Thus, they have to recoup their $1bil, plus a reasonable profit, in that time. If that time frame were extended, their time for recoupment would be extended, allowing them to charge less for the drugs.

        • William Brinkman says:

          @Esquire99: Are you familiar with how much a company spends in R&D vs. how much is spent in marketing?

        • Eyebrows McGee (now with double the baby!) says:

          @Esquire99: Drug companies pay more for Direct-to-Consumer advertising than they do for R&D. So I’m not sympathetic.

          • baquwards says:

            @Eyebrows McGee (now with more baby!):

            Not sympathetic either. I take niaspan which is an extended release niacin, the drug company didn’t develop niacin, they just mixed it with fillers to make it “extended release”. Wanna know what the cost of this vitamin is without insurance? $900 for 3 months!!!!!!!!!!!

            My cousin’s husband works as a pharmaceutical rep, he is good at what he does, they pay him 6 figures, lease him a BMW and he gets huge bonuses every year, along with a free trip for his family somewhere foreign. Somehow I think that he is grossly overcompensated.

            • Alys Brangwin enjoys RPGs again says:

              @baquwards: Well, the soul-buying business does pay well.

            • bohemian says:

              @baquwards: The FDA needs to ban the extended release scam to take an off patent drug and re-patent it. They take a drug that is a $4 drug and turn it into a $400 drug, literally. One of our kids was put on an extended release version of an old generic drug because his doctor really wanted him on it. It went from $4 to $400 before insurance. It recently went generic for the extended release version and that dropped the price down to $100 before insurance. It is such a blatant rip off it should be criminal.

              • baquwards says:

                @bohemian: I agree, it is a scam. How they can justify charging $900 for a three month supply of a vitamin that can be purchased for a few dollars is insane. I have a blood pressure medicine that went “extended release” only and the price sky rocketed, thank goodness there was another generic manufacturer still making a non extended release version, very cheap.

          • subtlefrog says:

            @Eyebrows McGee (now with more baby!): Wow. Now there’s a tidbit I’d like to use. Can I please have a source so I can back that up? It will come in handy.

        • DeeJayQueue says:

          @Esquire99: I’m sorry, but pharma companies are NOT hurting for money.

          Maybe if they didn’t spend so much cash advertising their drugs to people who have no idea what they’re for, or have any business thinking they need to take them, they’d have more money to keep themselves afloat and wouldn’t have to worry about shrinking profit margins as much.

          Oh, and for every drug that costs $1bn to bring to market, there are generally 5 or 6 that are ancillary drugs that are found along the way to that one, that in essence are free. Or at least help to subsidize the big one.

          Plus, it’s not like they stop making money once their patent runs out, they just have to compete with other companies who make generic versions. There are enough people who will still buy the name brand, and enough doctors that prescribe the name brand to keep a drug profitable long after the patent has run out. Otherwise Bayer wouldn’t still be making aspirin.

        • Alys Brangwin enjoys RPGs again says:

          @Esquire99: It would help if they didn’t spend so much money on direct-to-patient advertising!

        • bohemian says:

          @Esquire99: Ahem. Other countries don’t pay near what we in the US pay for the same drug. The bulk of the cost for a drug is in MARKETING not R&D.

          So no, we are not obligated to take it in the arse so they drug companies can “recoup” their research money.

        • negitoro says:

          @Esquire99: Are you kidding? The big pharmaceuticals make billions each year in profits, even with their R&D and 20 year patents.

          You think giving pharm companies more patent protection will give them incentive to make less profit?

        • elganador says:

          @Esquire99:

          Most of that $1B is in Marketing, especially since most modern drug patents merely cover reworked versions of already created drugs such as to keep them perpetually from being genericized.

          Additionally, I’ll add that some form of abstracted health coverage is needed, either at the state or government level. It would remove the burden of the costs from America’s businesses (one of the biggest problems cited with GMs inability to compete with “foreign” makes), and it would allow workers to more easily transition away from bad working conditions to better jobs – situations where a person is keeping a job only because it provides (increasingly reduced) heatlh coverage.

          Abstracting the coverage out would also allow for more small businesses to emerge, in my opinion. I’ve had a chronic illness since I was a kid and unless I’ve got group coverage from a job, I don’t have health insurance. I can’t get it on my own, and I’ve been unable to branch out on my own as a result.

          How many countries of the G8 have systemic healthcare provided to their citizens? The G20? The world?

        • shadowkahn says:

          @Esquire99: Which they would promptly not do, because they know we will pay what they are charging now. If we extend patent times, then they will just make more money, rather than passing savings on to the consumer.

        • chris_d says:

          @Esquire99:
          “allowing” – that’s the key word. Chances of that happening are about 0%.

        • consumerfan says:

          @Esquire99: Nice idea, but in practice, the cost of drugs would increase as a result simply because the patent-holder has a monopoly (by definition). There’s no incentive to reduce prices.

          With the current model, patent-holders are forced to bring their product to market as quickly as possible and make that profit. After the patent protection expires, you have other companies making the same drug at a much lower price.

        • Porcelina says:

          @Esquire99: Then how come the SAME DRUGS made by the SAME COMPANIES are cheaper in other countries?

        • gaywolverine says:

          @Esquire99: But lets look at where MOST funding for this RD comes from? How about the federal government and through universities.

    • Eyebrows McGee (now with double the baby!) says:

      @Esquire99: “A large part of that cost is due to ridiculously high malpractice insurance for doctors and the insane lawsuits that medical device and pharmaceutical manufacturers have to pay out. These are not the only factors, but they are prevalent ones. The solution, or at least part if it, is Tort reform. Limit the amount of damages that can be awarded in malpractice/pharmaceutical cases and insurance will go down (or at least stop going up).”

      FAIL. Study after study shows that despite the intuitive appeal of the malpractice-cost claims, malpractice lawsuits don’t drive the cost of medicine — and don’t even particularly drive the cost of malpractice INSURANCE.

      In fact, capping med mal payouts can lead, counterintuitively, to more med mal lawsuits, because it takes much longer to get rid of a bad doctor when the payouts are too low to make the cases worthwhile until they’re extremely egregious.

    • dbshaw says:

      @Esquire99: Lets face it, national single payer healthcare is the only sane solution IF your goal is to provide the best healthcare to the most people. Right now in the U.S. we pay more for healthcare than any other nation, but we don’t get the best healthcare? Why is that?

      Face it, not EVERYTHING needs to be a commodity. Free market healthcare will always be a loss for the consumer. On one side of the table you have the healthcare industry that has billions upon billions to spend to make the govt do what they want, on the other side of the table you have consumers, in NEED because of their health. Come on, how is that ever going to work out equitably?

      • floraposte says:

        @dbshaw: And apparently health care doesn’t work according to our more familiar economic principles: competition makes prices go up, not down. So the free market’s not so helpful there.

    • bohemian says:

      @Esquire99: Actually it is both. Providers are charging too much but national insurance is a must.

      Private insurers dump a large portion of their bills back on them through co-insurance, deductibles and conveniently writing policies to not cover certain things. This is more common than flat denials to get out of paying valid claims. The ins. company might pick up 70% of a bill. If it was a 100k bill your still stuck with a 30k debt and providers breathing down your neck for it. This is why people end up in bankruptcy yet have insurance.

      National insurance is supposed to do away with things like huge deductibles, co-insurance and some of the skeezy loopholes private insurance is using that are the core of the problem why people with insurance end up in heavy debt and bankruptcy.

      Due to multiple chronic medical problems in our family we spend out of pocket enough to buy a fairly decent used car every year and we have good insurance. This is sans anyone having a major medical incident or injury. Just think what we could do with that kind of cash every year. It could go to driving the economy through spending, could go into our underfunded retirement or college funds for our kids. Instead we are subsidizing the insurance companies profit margin with it.

      • Esquire99 says:

        @bohemian:
        I simply disagree. I don’t believe that people have a right to health insurance, and I sure as hell don’t want to be funding other people’s insurance with my tax dollars. I do believe people have a right to healthcare and that the appropriate way to ensure they get access to it is by taking steps to lower the cost of medical care, not by simply creating a system to pay the high costs that are currently in place.

        • johnva says:

          @Esquire99: Why are you okay with funding other people’s healthcare via private, corporate, for-profit health insurance, but you’re not okay with doing it via a government insurance that works exactly the same way?

          You’re ignoring the fact that single payer systems are proven to lower costs compared to what we’re doing. We’re wasting 1/3 of our healthcare dollars on things that don’t have anything to do with providing healthcare.

          • Esquire99 says:

            @johnva:
            Private insurance doesn’t come out of my tax dollars. Also, the government isn’t good at running businesses. Look at the post office. It operates at a HUGE deficit. I simply don’t think the government needs to be providing health insurance for everyone, it’s not necessary.

            • johnva says:

              @Esquire99: So basically your objections are ideological rather than fact-based.

              • Esquire99 says:

                @johnva:
                My general objection to nationalized healthcare is indeed ideological; I think given the governments history generally fucking things up, there are plenty of facts to conclude that the chances of them fucking up nationalized healthcare are pretty good. The postal service, airport security, etc. The government simply has too many voices (Congress, etc.) to run a “business.” If you think it takes forever to get your private insurance company to do anything (pay bills, return phone calls, un-fuck things), wait until there are 100 layers of government bureaucracy to go through, most of which will be run/staffed by government workers who care even less about you than the private insurance company’s employees.

                • jnews says:

                  @Esquire99: I’m sorry, but I’ve never seen even half of one shred of evidence that it’s possible for the government to have more bureaucracy, indifference, outright malevolence towards the paying customer than in our health insurance companies. I see a lot of hand-waving and “oh, you’ll see! you’ll all see!” but no evidence.

                  Everything you said about “government bureaucracy” applies 100% (or more) to “insurance company bureaucracy” except that insurance company bureaucrats get bonuses for denying you coverage that you’re contractually obligated to receive.

                • bohemian says:

                  @Esquire99: Please go look at Wall Street, the auto companies, the banking industry and the mortgage industry for some stellar examples of private sector running a business.

                  Having had to deal with Medicaid, Medicare and the VA system for various reasons over time the gubmint doesn’t do too bad of a job. I could fill volumes with the stupid crap private insurance companies have put me through.

                • snowburnt says:

                  @Esquire99: I have seen it too, however I actually work for the government and seen first hand some of the horrible bureaucracies change in front of my eyes to simple, lean electronic processes where a process that once took months now takes hours.

                  Keep in mind, the big G is huge and it will take a long time to modernize EVERYTHING. National healthcare will be a brand new guy with tons of oversight and financial transparency, it won’t be burdened by old processes and new processes will be electronic and quick.

                • Faust says:

                  @Esquire99: My general objection to nationalized healthcare is indeed ideological; I think given the governments history generally fucking things up, there are plenty of facts to conclude that the chances of them fucking up nationalized healthcare are pretty good.

                  I love how those with an ideology that government can’t work and then vote for people with the same exact ideology, are then dismayed, horrified, and surprised when government DOESN’T WORK. Is it really that hard to connect the dots?

                  How about, start electing people who believe that government can do a good job for you, and maybe our government wouldn’t be so shitty. The way I see it, the problem isn’t the US government. The problem is the people YOU elect to represent us in the US government. “For, of, and by the people” is true both when the people are good and when the people suck.

            • JulesNoctambule says:

              @Esquire99: Ah yes, once again all objection really boils down to the old ‘MY PRECIOUS TAX DOLLARS’ argument. And indeed, just look at all those countries who have health care programs that use tax dollars. Finland, Germany, Australia, the UK — why, they’re all just teetering on the edge of becoming third-world countries now thanks to the squandering of sweet, sweet tax money on something as useless as the health and well-being of their taxpaying citizens.

            • perruptor says:

              @Esquire99: You’re actually using the Postal Service as an example of bad government spending? That’s amazing. A service that will take a letter from my house, carry it all the way to the other end of the country (to Hawaii, even!) in just a few days, and charge me less than 50 cents, and you’re complaining about it? I think you’re one of those people who believes anything government does is de facto wrong. That belief defies reality.

            • consumerfan says:

              @Esquire99: It doesn’t come out of your tax dollars but it DOES come out in your premiums.

              If uninsured are getting discounts, or whenever someone is charged less than the norm, everyone else is picking up a higher premium. The money has to come from somewhere (except in a monopoly or a semi-monopoly where the corporation(s) can make super-profits).

              You’re right about the government, though. They’re terrible at running business.

            • SJChip104 says:

              @Esquire99: the government isn’t good at running businesses. Look at

              AIG? General Motors?

              Oh wait, Rush is coming on. I have to listen to find out what to think.

          • snowburnt says:

            @johnva: I agree with what you’re saying but I don’t think it’s understood how it will work either.

            National Insurance WILL make costs go down because you have the nation negotiating rather than individuals or insurance companies. Additionally national insurance won’t be for profit so many of the processes will be different, additionally, most procedures will be covered with little or no deductable or copay.

            National insurance should be a beast unlike any insurance company we currently pay fealty to now. Hopefully utilizing new IT and SOAs since this will be a NEW beast, rather than an old school bureaucracy it will hopefully be more agile as well.

        • DjDynasty says:

          @Esquire99: Then I hope you, and every member of your family has to suffer threw some sort of extensive ICU visit.

          My mother has had pulminary failure, 3 times, in ICU for a month at a time, every time, then off to specialized hospitals to help her get her lung functions back. Each time, she had to file bankruptcy. EVEN WITH HEALTH INSURANCE! She would have no income for 90-120 days while she was in the hospital, tons of past due bills. After the second bankruptcy, I had to put the home in my name as the doctors started putting leins against the house. You see, United Health care approved all the claims, and treatment, then changed their mind 6 months later, So the docts came back after my mother for the full amount, not the insurance discounted amount United Healthcare agreed to.

        • bohemian says:

          @Esquire99: It is a combination. National insurance has the negotiating power on providers and drug companies.

          Your talking out of both sides of your mouth that people have a right to healthcare yet you support a concept that DENIES people healthcare. Or should I say heathcare or a roof over your head and food. The current system has insurance companies taking 40% of the money for profits, executive compensation and redundant administration vs. what a not for profit national insurance plan could. We are giving a massive chunk of money to these insurance companies so they can pay shareholders. Talk about a waste of money.

          Just remember that MY TAX DOLLARS are paying for you too. I guess that whole concept of a community and caring for other is offensive to you.

        • elganador says:

          @Esquire99:

          Good. I don’t want to pay for your armed forces, water supply, fire department, police department, schools, roads, etc, etc, with MY tax dollars.

          Exactly WHEN did this idea gain light that a person can pay zero taxes, gain from the system, and also determine which aspects of the system they can dictate to the others who are participating?

        • perruptor says:

          @Esquire99: “I sure as hell don’t want to be funding other people’s insurance with my tax dollars.”

          You’re already funding other people’s health care with your tax dollars. What do you think happens when someone without insurance gets injured or sick? They go to the Emergency room. You pay for the care they get there.

          Also, can you please stop pretending that insurance is health care? It isn’t. It’s a way for the insurance industrey top make a profit off of illness. That profit is a major reason we pay more for health care and get less.

    • BrazDane says:

      @Esquire99: This is pure and utter BS. Even if you lower the costs of tort insurance and lawsuits, the money saved will just get into the pockets of the doctors and hospitals themselves – not customer is going to see more than a fraction of that.
      And this is what’s wrong with this ‘laissez faire’ attitude to business – the belief that somehow a businessperson would make do with less than maximum profit – just not going to happen!
      Look to other countries where the government is providing free health care: Being a doctor is still one of the best-paid professions and tax money is being used to benefit those who pay it, not the pockets of insurance companies who have to get their bite of the cake.
      When you pay health insurance, you are not just paying your doctor, you are supporting an entire industry of health insurance companies whose purpose is to take as much of your money as possible and provide you with as little benefit as they can get away with.
      If your health insurance money was instead paid as tax and administered by the government, which is non-profit, more of your money would benefit you AND the doctors you are so worried about not being able to keep their six-figure salaries.
      And regarding the medical companies that others are so worried about might have to disappoint their stock holders – they are doing business just fine in other countries where the government can help negotiate more reasonable prices – you are just cutting a bit into their PROFIT, which lines the pockets of the executives and more stockholders, not their ability to function as a company.

      • Esquire99 says:

        @BrazDane:
        The government is technically non-profit, but they want as much of our money as possible just like the healthcare executives/shareholder do.

    • mythago says:

      @Esquire99: Funny that you lump ‘malpractice/pharmaceutical’ together. The former is a lawsuit claiming a doctor gave very bad medical care; the latter is a product-liability claim against a drug manufacturer. I guess what you were trying to say is that only corporations should be allowed to sue anybody?

      The lie that ‘tort reform reduces insurance premiums’ is, um, a lie. As doctors in ‘tort reform’ jurisdictions have found out, malpractice premiums do not magically drop when caps on damages are set, and insurance companies cheerfully admit this.

      Of course, as you well know, the real goal of damages caps is to keep people from suing in the first place. If a drunk doctor kills Great-Grandma with malpractice, good luck getting a lawyer to help you, because the economic damages are so tiny it’s not worth their while.

      • Esquire99 says:

        @mythago:
        Notice I didn’t expressly say the premiums would drop. I said at the least they would stop going up. Further, I’m not saying that people shouldn’t be allowed to sue and be made whole. I’m saying that the damages should be limited. People shouldn’t get multi-million dollar windfalls because the jury feels sorry for them.

        • snowburnt says:

          @Esquire99: “People shouldn’t get multi-million dollar windfalls because the jury feels sorry for them.”

          Most of the time these multi-million dollar windfalls are greatly reduced on appeal…Also, for what doctors make and are expected to do, an epic fail calls for an epic payout.

          I’m sure there are isolated cases of people trying to cash in on minor errors, but I’m also sure they don’t get very far in their attempts.

    • microcars says:

      @Esquire99:
      the incentive for Profit does not belong in Health Insurance.

      Just like it does not belong in the Military.

      • dragonfire81 says:

        @microcars: In Canada, drug companies are not permitted to market their drugs to end users, it’s the doctors job to decide what meds you should be one for what reasons.

        And yes we have universal healthcare and yes we pay more in taxes but no, our country is not in danger of going bankrupt.

    • mattarse says:

      @Esquire99: I think you miss alot of the benefits of a nationalized health care system. I’m an American living in Europe – so I may be able to add insight. The trick is that with a nationalized service the insurance companies (which at least in Czech) are private companies but the rates paid by them to doctors etc are set by the government. This doesn’t leave the insurance companies room to get out of paying.
      It also helps that because of this there are no “pre-existing” conditions – all people are insured, therefore all medical bills are paid.
      When I normally speak of this to Americans there is also the mistaken impression that the service is of lower quality than in the states – but in my experience this is not true. I normally have less than a 15 minute wait to see the dr for a normal visit, and have had to make one trip to the emergency room on a Saturday night and was seen by the doctor within minutes of arriving. Typically if you need a non emergency MRI etc you need to schedule it about 2 weeks prior.
      In my experiences this is vastly superior to the US – although I do not have statistics, only personal experience to back this up.
      It is true that this isn’t free – but it is included in the taxes we pay. My taxes are in the highest bracket and total 30 something percent (I believe it’s 38 but would have to check to be sure). If you were to add the total cost of insurance into the taxes paid in America I think the cost would be similar if not more. I’ve seen a study recently that included property taxes etc and showed Americans as actually paying more on average when you include costs for all the things that are “free” in Europe.
      I think once you delve deeper into the socialized system you will see many additional benefits – those taxes also include free university for all people.

    • hedonia says:

      @Esquire99: heath care =/= health insurance. Your post reads like you just came from Intro to PoliSci; grow up a little and stop pretending that YOU know EXACTLY what to do about all of this.

      It is not that simple.

    • Saboth says:

      @Esquire99:

      Actually, I disagree. Privatizing healthcare was one of the biggest mistakes this country has ever made. Insurance companies get rich, and no one can even afford healthcare if you don’t have insurance. We need to reform our legal system so we don’t have 10 million dollar payouts for minor things, we need to get rid of insurance companies completely, and nationalize. But what will really happen is we will simply provide some additional benefits for the elderly and kids, and hard working adults will foot the bill with higher taxes, while also having to cover themselves with ever-increasingly insane insurance premiums.

    • xip says:

      @Esquire99:

      I don’t think that the issue is lawsuits. There are several other problems that are taking a much larger toll. Here is one of the big ones that usually isn’t discussed:

      I think one of the major factors in health care cost is the rapid pace that technology is improving. Consider that hospitals may spend millions on sophisticated equipment only to have that equipment outdated within a couple of years. They feel pressure to get the newest and best equipment because people expect to have the best available when it comes to their health. But hospitals have to pay the equipment off somehow, so they charge high prices. If you buy a $1 million piece of equipment that goes obsolete within 5 years, how much do you have to charge per use? The same issue goes for prescription drugs. A drug manufacturer may spend billions developing a life-saving (or life-improving) drug. They need to get their money back somehow as well (and make a profit to boot,) so they charge high prices. Once again, people want access to the best available, so they demand these drugs.

      I think that a possible solution to this is regulation and planning. For example, in many cases two hospitals in a city may buy the same million dollar piece of equipment, but the equipment may only be used a few hours out of the day at either location. If the hospitals would plan to buy a single piece of equipment and share it, it may be able to accommodate the patients from both hospitals simply by running it for more hours each day. There would be increased maintenance costs, but they would likely be more than offset by the amount saved on the initial cost. (This is just a quick example that I could think up at work.)

      Another big issue is the way our insurance companies work. They aren’t as much insurance as they are half-ass subscription medical plans. There are so many problems with them, it’s a rant for another day. ;)

      I think that health care is a necessity, but it isn’t a right. I put it in the same boat as food or even energy (electricity, fuel, etc.) The government should not take these things over and provide them for “free.” They should, however, regulate them and try to make the market as stable and inexpensive as possible.

    • Mary Marsala with Fries says:

      @Esquire99: I’m actually torn between responding to the “asshole aspect” and the “stupid aspect” here…it’s like dueling banjos for the entitled ignorant in our country! Wow!

      a) you’re wrong about lawsuits; if anything our system protects companies to the extent that it harms not only costs, but the nation’s health and safety…
      b) you’re wrong to assume that lowering costs for the insurance industry will do shit, by itself, to lower costs for the consumer (their incentive to charge less is what?)
      c) you’re ignorant beyond belief if you think that the problem ISN’T private insurers. Look, it’s really simple: Private for-profit companies have every incentive to let people get sick in the most expensive ways possible. For those companies, it *doesn’t make sense* to cover the cost of routine screenings that are 100% proven to save money in the long run; nor does it make sense to encourage healthy living, or provide extra care now that’s cost-saving in the long run. BECAUSE THEIR GOAL IS TO MAKE MONEY, not keep people healthy or keep families out of financial ruin. But for the public sector, the point is to *spend less money*, not to *collect more* — a BIG EFFING DIFFERENCE that somehow people of your persuasion seem completely incapable of grasping. Which I suppose means I’m wasting my breath. But oh well; it was worth trying I guess.

      ::hands over dipshit award::

      • etherealclarity says:

        @Mary Marsala with Fries: Private for-profit companies have every incentive to let people get sick in the most expensive ways possible. For those companies, it *doesn’t make sense* to cover the cost of routine screenings that are 100% proven to save money in the long run; nor does it make sense to encourage healthy living, or provide extra care now that’s cost-saving in the long run. BECAUSE THEIR GOAL IS TO MAKE MONEY, not keep people healthy or keep families out of financial ruin.

        This actually doesn’t make sense. If the insurance companies’ goals are to make money, they should want to minimize their costs. To minimize their costs, they should want to minimize the amount they pay out in claims. If they pay for preventative procedures and screenings, they won’t have to pay larger claims later. The real problem here isn’t that insurance companies want to maximize profits, it is that insurance is tied (via tax code) to employment and that people change jobs more than they ever have before. As it is, insurance companies know that the cost of the expensive procedures won’t be charged to them, so they don’t pay for the preventative ones. If we de-coupled insurance from employment, that would no longer be the case (and would have the added benefit of helping people who are laid off for one reason or another or who change jobs not being forced to find new insurance with new rules etc).

        • snowburnt says:

          @etherealclarity: Going along with the employment aspect of it is the whole goal of capitalism: profit (I love capitalism and I love profit, but bear with me). In the modern internet society, long term profits have been eschewed in favor of quick profits. People want new earnings records over night rather than over 5-10 years and the average investor doesn’t care how it happens. If it starts to tank, they’ll bail out and go with the next guy. Insurance companies like investors and the employees of the insurance companies like their bonuses. In the same way that AIG (CDOs, CSOs) and GM (Hummer, H2, Volt) sold out for quick gains, so do the health insurance companies.

          • dragonfire81 says:

            @snowburnt: Drugs are cheaper in Canada mainly because companies are forbidden from advertising them to end users, thus lowering the cost of producing and selling the drug.

            The U.S. may not be Canada or Europe, but it is a society with many similarities to those other industrialized nations. It always amazes me how people trumpet the strength and advanced ways of America and yet the U.S. is one of the ONLY major industrialized nations without universal health care.

            I’d love to know how many lives can be improved or outright saved with preventive care. There was someone who posted (might’ve been on this very site) about how she was able to control her diabetes with the proper diet and no longer needed her meds.

            Unfortunately preventive care does make any money for the Big Pharmas, so we live in a system not focused on “here’s what you need to do to not get sick” but on “oh you’re sick, here’s a pill to fix that.” The ads we see on TV would have us believe there’s a magical pill to fix any problem that ails us (with some potentially serious side effects) but efficient and effective health care is far more than giving your patients meds and sending them out the door.

    • etherealclarity says:

      @Esquire99: A few comments to everyone in support of Esquire99.

      1) Part of the reason that Canada and other countries are able to have somewhat successful single payer systems is that they have access to drugs developed in our country, and they have the ability to travel to the US for procedures that their own countries are rationing or have long queues for.

      2) If we didn’t let Pharma have the free market incentive of huge profits, they would be much less likely to pursue risky R&D. According to this paper ([www.pwc.com]), in 1993, all of the Pharma companies combined had 894 projects in preclinical trials… but only 36 of those would ever make it to market. That’s a success rate of 2.7%, which is INCREDIBLY risky, and it takes many years to get it to the market. If we wanted to lower the price of Pharma, one possible option would be to decrease the regulations and trials required for getting a drug to market, but require less-tested drugs to have some sort of “experimental” label on them. This would, of course, mean that the customer takes on more risks, but it would be really helpful for drugs that treat terminal illnesses where patients are willing to take those risks.

      3) The large amount spent on Pharma advertising vs R&D is irrelevant. All it means is that the R&D process is so risky that when a Pharma company finds a successful drug, they HAVE to sink bank into ad dollars in order to get the profits on it that make the R&D worth it in the first place.

      4) The United States is not Canada. It isn’t Europe. Just because they can do something successfully (which is arguable in this case but most of you seem to think it isn’t so I’ll skip that for now), doesn’t mean we can. If you want to prove that a single-payer system will work for the US, start by fixing Medicare/Medicaid/VA Health System. Once that is proven to work with lower costs than our private system, then we can talk about a national program.

      5) The problem with health care isn’t that insurance companies are greedy or that people are uninsured… its that our expectations are constantly rising. We live much longer, healthier lives today than we ever have in the history of humanity, but suddenly have a healthcare crisis? Every person gets sick and dies eventually. If we cure one disease, we live longer… long enough for new diseases to develop. Cancer never used to be this much of a problem… not because we suddenly were exposed to so many carcinogens, but because people usually didn’t live long enough to GET cancer. That’s not to say we shouldn’t worry about it, or that we shouldn’t sink money into it, but people have this expectation that health care is a basic right that people are entitled to, and the problem is that the more we improve healthcare, the more our expectations for healthcare will grow. If we allow healthcare to remain private instead of public, it will advance more quickly (again, see previous notes about high profits), allowing overall care to improve even if the insurance companies don’t give a used lipstick about any of us.

      • snowburnt says:

        @etherealclarity:

        1-3) Big Pharma is a problem, it’s a very complex web of profits, R&D, and regulations. I don’t think that fixing BP will fix health care or health insurance, and vise versa, though any little bit will help.
        Also about the advertising, advertising to consumers does nothing but promote hypochondria. The prescribing should be left to the doctors, not patients self diagnosing and self-prescribing themselves pills they don’t necessarily need.

        4) It’s easy to say that there isn’t a 1:1 ratio between US and other countries. It’s also easy to say that medicare doesn’t work when it’s a small test case that seems to work better on the customer side than privatized insurance.

        5)I partially agree with you, people are living longer through better medicine which is part of the problem with programs like social security and medicare, but people have and do get cancer and other serious conditions at any age and this hasn’t changed over time. What has happened is that we’re detecting it earlier through better methods and treating it sooner.

        Also, our current health care system is reactive rather than proactive. We got yearly physicals as children, then after high school the next time we need one is when we get cancer screenings. My doctor was shocked when I scheduled one. Things like Nutritionists, dietitians and physical trainers should be part of your health care plan rather than a luxury. My BCBS plan had a global fit addition that tried to negotiate lower health club prices. This should be the norm rather than the exception.

        The entire structure of how we look at it and use it needs to change for things to improve.

        Also industries like health care will continue to improve regardless of public vs private. If we make it public, it will be more accessible than privatizing it, but even if we let health care remain private and make the insurance publi I think things will improve.

      • oneandone says:

        @etherealclarity: Your 4 & 5 make a lot of sense. But the rest – and a lot of this discussion – seem to accept the current paradigm of drug development. We don’t need private companies to do the R&D – it’s a recent, terrible operational model. Changing it would result in cheaper drugs that address the serious problems that affect a lot of people.

        Since Canada’s been mentioned a lot: Researchers in the University of Toronto made one of the most important pharmaceutical breakthroughs with the discovery of insulin & development of the pancreatic extract that treats people with diabetes. They did the R&D – and when it needed to be refined and mass produced, they worked with Eli Lily, who won the bid for a limited exclusive contract and who could not sell the drug for more than a certain price.

        That’s how we should do it: let academic or publicly sponsored research do the R&D, and let drug companies mass produce it. They won’t have the investment to recoup – and we wouldn’t be spending more public funds than what’s already being done through grants.

        More on the discovery on insulin:

        [www.clinchem.org]

      • perruptor says:

        @etherealclarity:
        1. Why are those drugs cheaper in Canada? Also, please note that the waiting lists are for optional, non-emergency treatment. patients needing urgent care are treated immediately, even if that means flying them to a hospital from their home in the remote woods.

        2. Price-Waterhouse? Please find an impartial source.

        3. The money spend on direct advertising of drugs is not irrelevant; it’s huge. What it means is that the drug companies can’t convince doctors to prescribe their new products without patients asking for them.

        4. America is so special that what works in the rest of the industrialized world can’t work here? That argument is known as “American exceptionalism,” and it’s bunk. In fact the VHA already does outperform civilian health care, at much lower cost.

        5. None of the things you talk about are unique to the U.S. What’s different about our system? The for-profit aspect and insurance industry power over it.

  4. I Love New Jersey says:

    No doubt this report is part of the great march toward socialized medicine.

    • MooseOfReason says:

      @I Love New Jersey: “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste.”

    • veg-o-matic says:

      @I Love New Jersey: Let’s hope so!

    • sburnap42 says:

      @I Love New Jersey: If the insurance companies did a reasonable job of insuring people, that march would stop immediately.

    • Brontide says:

      @I Love New Jersey: I’m sure people though the same of socialized fire protection. It’s a much better idea to go back to the way it was where the homeowner with the fire got to negotiate with the different companies before they would attempt to put the fire out.

      • JulesNoctambule says:

        @snowmoon: Part of me wishes that the ‘OMG SOCIALISM!!!’ people would indeed opt out of things like firefighters, police forces, libraries, sidewalks and similar, and take the ‘OMG MY TAX DOLLARS!!!’ people with them.

        • Esquire99 says:

          @JulesNoctambule:
          I don’t understand why the “Yippie Socialism” people can’t understand that it doesn’t have to be one way or the other. I believe there are certain functions that are the province of the government; fire protection, police protection, public infrastructure (roads, etc.), etc. are examples. However, the line must be drawn somewhere. For me (and many like me) that line is somewhere before nationalized healthcare. Not everyone has rigid, hard and fast beliefs. Some of use have fluid and flexible beliefs where we take the stuff we like from each side and arrive somewhere in the middle.

          • jamar0303 says:

            @Esquire99: I’d prefer it to be drawn somewhere that leaves health care to people who are not interested in profit above all.

            • Saboth says:

              @jamar0303:

              agreed. putting healthcare and the lives of people in the hands of greedy insurance companies was the worst thing the US ever did. Abolish them all and nationalize. “Mr. Smith, we show you had a tooth removed in 1999. We’ve read plaque can cause tooth decay. Also there are studies linking plaque to heart disease. This represents a sign you had heart disease at the time, so we are reversing the decision to cover your heart transplant and associated surgeries. You now owe us 1,233,567. We will need payment by the end of the month. Have a good day”.

          • PunditGuy says:

            @Esquire99: You can believe that, but why? There are plenty of examples in the world of nationalized health care systems that deliver lower costs and better care than the U.S. — so it’s not like it’s impossible. Unless you think the U.S. government is unique among nations in its inability to do things correctly.

            Plus, really, we’re talking about nationalizing health care insurance, not health care — big pharma will still chug along, hospitals can still be for-profit or not-for-profit, doctors will still play golf — but the middlemen, who seem to provide no service, will not be able to siphon off dollars that are better spent on care.

          • korybing says:

            @Esquire99: Okay then, let’s not have nationalized health care and instead chance the law requiring health insurance companies to be run as non-profits. I’d be happy with that. The way it is now is nothing but abusing the customers so they can try to stay healthy. As long as insurance companies can make a profit they will do everything in their power to make the largest profit possible, and that ends up in horrible loopholes, non-coverages, and flat-out refusing to pay for claims for whatever reason in an attempt to keep profits high.

            Take that incentive away and maybe things will change. Maybe.

          • cluberti says:

            @Esquire99: It doesn’t, but there are certain things for the others of us that *should* be in the hands of government or non-profits, including health care (especially for the poor, young, and old, but it’d be good for the rest of us too). I’m sorry, but I’ve seen friends and family members on the receiving end of more than one insurance company trying to deny treatment for any number of expensive treatments due to “pre-existing conditions”, using remarkably similar logic to the intended humor posted here in other threads. Why pay hundreds of dollars a month to an insurance company for 30+ years only to have them try to deny you cancer treatment because it’s expensive to them (and yes, that can be the only logical reasoning)? A person’s health is not something that should be up to a for-profit entity, and since it’d be rather difficult to force all of our current for-profit healthcare companies and hospitals into a non-profit status (OMG THINK OF THE SHAREHOLDERS!), I personally believe it’s better left to (shockingly) the government, who has a VESTED INTEREST (taxes!) in you being healthy and working.

            Just one man’s opinion, but there are examples throughout the world of nationalized medicine that is every bit what we have in the US (and perhaps more), and it’s time we start looking at it as a viable possibility. What we have now is broken, and maybe hopelessly so (maybe not, but for-profit insurance means inherently finding ways to hold onto the company’s money, which usually comes before thinking of the needs of the insured).

          • JulesNoctambule says:

            @Esquire99: You’re funny.

        • Trai_Dep says:

          @JulesNoctambule: C’mon. Do you really think those sorts of people would miss libraries?

          • JulesNoctambule says:

            @Trai_Dep: Of course they’d miss libraries! There aren’t that many places for selfish people to leave their kids for free babysitting, you know, and those tax-dollar-wasting librarians have nothing better to do with their days, of course.

        • floraposte says:

          @JulesNoctambule: Hey, can we add a rider that the ‘OMG ACTIVIST JUDGES!!” take the most activist justice, Scalia, with them?

        • kevjohn says:

          @JulesNoctambule: I’m pretty sure they opted out of libraries a long time ago.

    • jasonof2000 says:

      @I Love New Jersey:

      God, we can only hope!

    • Mary Marsala with Fries says:

      @I Love New Jersey: Cool, so you’d never call the Socialized Police if you got robbed, right? Or the Socialized Fire Department? And I’m sure you never use your Socialized Clean Water delivery system, right?

      Notice the sneer you get on your face when you say “socialized” — basically all that is is your reaction to something that you perceive as being “for the poor” and thus not of any direct use to yourself. The things YOU use, you know, it’s okay for *them* to be socialized.

      Because you’re a douche, if you were wondering why.

  5. veg-o-matic says:

    @Esquire99: Um.. what?

    This is an excellent illustration of the dire need for universal healthcare or even single-payer. Universal or single payer would allow a single authority to negotiate prices and likely allow greater leeway in undertaking tort reform.

    These things are not mutually exclusive.

    Meanwhile.. people die, and others are content to spout out phrases like “tort reform before universal access!”

    • Esquire99 says:

      @veg-o-matic:
      If healthcare was affordable people could get by without insurance. Giving them insurance is like putting new floors over the old floors. Eventually you have to deal with the root of the problem, which is the insanely high cost of healthcare. Tort and drug patent reform is one step in the direction of lower costs.

  6. Alpine75 says:

    My wife and I have about 20 thousand dollars of medical debt, incurred over a four year period where we didn’t have health insurance. Not quite sure how we’re going to pay it off. It’s rough.

    • twophrasebark says:

      @Alpine75:

      You can negotiate a lot of that debt way down. You can ask for discount or ask what hardship discounts they offer. They figure they’re not going to get anything anyway. They may take as little as 25 percent.

      It won’t cost anything to ask. You’ll be surprised at how much you can save. If the billing people aren’t helpful, call the practitioner or institution directly. Best of luck.

      • Alpine75 says:

        @twophrasebark:

        Thanks for the idea.

      • ideagirl says:

        @twophrasebark: not as true anymore. Our local hospital offers zero negotiation. You can either 1. pay the entire bill in 12 installments or 2. it goes to collection. Period.

        • bohemian says:

          @ideagirl: This is pretty standard these days. Certain hospitals that are not turning the profit they want are cutting out the discounting of bills or waiving part of it. One locally is using their required “charity care” minimum to write down bills of indigent people they could never collect on anyways and going after anyone with actual assets with both barrels.

      • bibliophibian says:

        @twophrasebark: Yeah, what ideagirl said. A lot of places are not negotiating any more, or not nearly as much as they used to.

        I had a sleep study done a few years ago which I was told would be covered under my insurance. I was a dummy and didn’t doublecheck and/or get a preauthorization; it wasn’t covered. $4000 bill to my house.

        I was referred to a neurologist based on the results of the sleep study, and he wanted to do a second one. I said, “I can’t afford another $4000,” and he said, “$4000?! No! The allowed amount is only about $800!” (Allowed amount = the special negotiated insurance-company rate.)

        I called the sleep-study provider, explained my situation, and requested a negotiation on the bill. The hospital said they would give me a 15% discount *if* I paid the entire bill within 30 days. If it was longer than 30 days, they would give me a 10% discount on the balance but it had to be paid in full. When I pointed out that they’d willingly take $800 from the insurance company, they said, “That’s exactly why we have to charge people without insurance the full rate.”

        I went through layers and layers of management and executives, and that’s where they stand, unbudging. So I said, “Screw it,” and I’m sending them $10 a month, and they can suck it. They haven’t reported me to collections yet, but if they do, they do.

  7. lalaland13 says:

    The local paper here constantly has blurbs about benefit dinners and such for people with cancer or some other awful illness. Most of these people have insurance. Insurance isn’t enough. It’s ridiculous how many people are one disaster away from bankruptcy.

    • bohemian says:

      @lalaland13: For a while we were averaging one a month, these were just people we knew personally. Most were for cancers. People shouldn’t have to hold benefits everytime someone gets ill.

  8. esd2020 says:

    @Esquire99: Is there any evidence that giving tax cuts and extra patent protections to pharma companies actually lowers the price that consumers pay for drugs? It certainly hasn’t always worked that way in other industries.

    Further, some medical procedures and drugs are just expensive. Period. Even with tort reform, 1,000-year patents, tax breaks, etc, they would still be expensive. Healthcare will never be cheap enough that it will make sense for people to “get by without it.” Fixing health insurance *is* getting to the root of the problem — not finding ways to give more money to pharmas in the hopes that the money will trickle down to consumers.

    • Esquire99 says:

      @esd2020:
      Giving people insurance to pay the high prices of the pharma companies and insurance (malpractice) perpetuates the problem. Finding a way to simply lower the cost is what’s necessary.

      • HogwartsAlum says:

        @Esquire99:

        What if you lower the costs and the insurance companies still won’t pay? Even $100 can be a chunk for some people.

      • Trai_Dep says:

        @Esquire99: In what fairyland do you reside that you think that Big Pharma, armed with 1,000 year patents and the grisly execution of every trial lawyer in the land, wouldn’t maximize revenue instead of passing the savings on to the consumer? Indeed, they’d have a shareholder responsibility to do so, under the current rules.
        Oh, and the stats that Big Pharma gives about the effective length of patents? It’s mainly centered around “lifestyle” drugs, preventing male hair loss, giving geriatrics firmer erections, etc. That’s where ~80% of their research goes. Drugs that could cheaply (pennies, seriously) save lives – malaria, say – aren’t seen as profitable enough, so they’re underinvested in.

    • Shane Elliott says:

      @esd2020: esd2020; i want you to think about something then. If it is just plain expensive and will never be affordable, then how is giving people insurance going to solve it? The insurance still has to pay for it and demonstrate a profit. Are the insurers supposed to operate at a loss? If the procedures are just plain expensive, and the insurers lose money on them, then how is giving insurance going to help anything, since the insurers will do whatever they can to avoid covering things which they know are flat out unprofitable under all circumstances? And for that matter, why should they cover procedures which are uniformly cost-ineffective? Insurers do not exist for the sake of altruism, so for what reason should they take a loss on someone else’s behalf?

      • jamar0303 says:

        @Shane Elliott: “The insurance still has to pay for it and demonstrate a profit. ” is the root of the problem. Make insurance non-profit. Period. The whole industry.

      • Uncle Billy Time! says:

        @Shane Elliott:
        Hey, stuff’s expensive: deal with it. Someone has to pay. What’s the alternative – if the care you need is too expensive, you die?
        Insurance companies aren’t “supposed to operate at a loss” – they’re supposed to balance the money they pay out with the money they take in from all the people who don’t require payouts. That’s how it works. If it didn’t, then how is it that my friend whose house was destroyed by arson now has a roof over her head? Re-building the house was pretty darn expensive, but that’s the point of insurance, isn’t it?

  9. HogwartsAlum says:

    If I get that sick, I hope I die. Then my family can sell my house and pay the bill and I won’t have to worry about it.

    Living under that kind of debt, even if you are paying it off, is crushing and demoralizing. How are people supposed to get better with all that stress?

    • bibliophibian says:

      @HogwartsAlum: Wow. You’d rather be dead than owe money or file bankruptcy?

      I decided about 15 years ago, after an ugly divorce and a non-bill-paying ex-husband, that just because the creditors wanted me to freak out about the bills didn’t mean I had to. I did what I could, and fought for serenity on the rest. It wasn’t pleasant, but was definitely better than letting the bills run/ruin my life.

      • mythago says:

        @bibliophibian: I think the issue is the financial burden to one’s family. I’d rather be dead than beggar my children, too.

      • HogwartsAlum says:

        @bibliophibian:

        No, you don’t have to freak out about bills, but it’s very stressful all the same. If you were gravely ill, that would be the last thing you would want to deal with. And it could very well BE the last thing, if your health were fragile enough.

        I’m not afraid of dying. I can’t wait to go Home. I just hope it won’t be something that would gross other people out, like losing my head or Ebola or something.

    • mac-phisto says:

      @HogwartsAlum: & that is why this is a problem that’s long overdue for a solution. nobody should have to die to keep their family solvent.

    • pz says:

      @HogwartsAlum: “If I get that sick, I hope I die. Then my family can sell my house and pay the bill and I won’t have to worry about it.”

      Why won’t Americans wake up an elect people who will give you national health care? No one should have to make a choice like what you presented in a modern country.

      • korybing says:

        @mdmadph: “Why won’t Americans wake up an elect people who will give you national health care? No one should have to make a choice like what you presented in a modern country.”

        It’s not like we’re here going “oh hey I’ll vote for him because he doesn’t want to give us national health care!” It’s a LOT more complicated than that. Hell, we DID elect someone who wants to give us national health care: Obama. But he’s having to fight to get any sort of progress on that front because so many different things are getting in the way. There are a lot of very powerful people who profit handsomely off the current health care system, and getting them to play ball is hard. Being able to make something that will get enough support involves compromises and cuts and changes to make everybody happy.

        The health care system and politics are so insanely complicated and filled with horrible bureaucracy, greed, corruption, red tape, and good old fashioned inefficiency that you have to fight for everything because there’s always some group of people who will protest whatever you’re trying to do, especially in a country this size with so many people and special interest groups. All of it is in dire need of some sort of reform.

    • Mary Marsala with Fries says:

      @HogwartsAlum: Very good point. There have been several studies that show that high stress and financial worry contributes to the length and seriousness of an illness…and thus to its cost.

      Which, again, private insurers are fine with, since that “cost” is going into their pockets.

  10. juri squared says:

    This happened to my family about three years ago. We had huge medical bills, combined with a layoff. Bankruptcy was the best decision we could have made.

  11. HRHKingFridayXX says:

    The real problem is intentional risk- ie, we don’t want to pay for insurance for someone who eats butter competitively or snowboards. Basic and preventative care should be nationalized, with people buying their own catastrophic coverage as needed… which is generally cheap unless you have behavioral risks.

    • Shane Elliott says:

      @HRHKingFridayXX: I actually think you may be onto something here. Basic preventative screenings/vaccinations/doctor’s visits for all, but everyone is responsible for their own coverage to deal with major procedures. However, the major coverage should have stipulations to allow for denial of coverage relating to willful self-neglect. ie, if you opt not to make use of your provided vaccinations, then nobody is obligated to pay to treat you if you contract the disease the vaccination would prevent.

      • Bailen says:

        @Shane Elliott: There is a growing movement in Canada to a similar effect. Since most healthcare comes out of our taxes, more and more people are wanting “willful self-neglect” not to be covered by the government, and the big issue at hand is smoking. If you are a smoker and come down with an illness related to being a smoker then you are on your own.

        • Shane Elliott says:

          @Bailen: as a healthcare worker (and nursing student) I see time and again just how much of our healthcare costs come down to treating willful self-neglect, or overcharging you in order to subsidize the care of the neglectful. It truly is sickening how much of what we do and charge for is wasted on those who wasted their own bodies.

          • bohemian says:

            @Shane Elliott: I read something recently that the UK is grappling with this. People don’t want to pay for the care of someone who simply can’t stop shoving twinkies in their face and get off the couch.

            The reason we don’t see preventative care or more effort to stop self inflicted health problems is that private insurance doesn’t care. They assume that the person with the festering condition will likely be on someone else’s policy when they keel over and no longer their problem. This is bean counters establishing medical policy.

            • Shane Elliott says:

              @bohemian: can you blame them though? If they honestly believe that the expense of their major medical conditions will not fall to them to pay, then what is their motivation to pay for preventative care?

            • Trai_Dep says:

              @bohemian: I travel to places where brain encephalitis is a concern. There’s a vaccine you can get, that’s on the State Department’s list of suggested vaccines.
              Out of pocket cost for the vaccine is $50.
              Out of pocket cost for brain encephalitis would veer over $300,000, I’d bet.

              Guess which of the two my insurance company will pay for, and which they don’t?

              • Trai_Dep says:

                @Trai_Dep: Add: by “suggested” the State Department is saying, Don’t go there until you take these vaccines. Not an optional listing.

                • oneandone says:

                  @Trai_Dep: Same thing happened to me with similar vaccines – I had very, very good insurance as a university employee, but the insurance wouldn’t cover my vaccinations or a consultation with a travel doctor. He said that no insurance covers him, which was sad.

                  However, if I contracted meningitis, yellow fever, polio, diptheria, typhoid, and whatever else was in the area I was going to, insurance would pay for my hospitalization. VERY short-sighted.

                  Apparently, in the past, the municipal dept of public health covered some foreign-travel vaccinations, but not any more. I can’t blame them, but wouldn’t it be nice to live in a place where they were provided as a public service? Because otherwise people are flying all over and picking up who knows what and bringing it back. When YF comes back to the U.S, we’re going to be sorry we didn’t take at least some precautions.

        • mmmsoap says:

          @Bailen: That’s a good idea, but I wonder if it would hold up if challenged in court. (I’m not a Canadian, and don’t know much about Canadian courts, but…) For some things, it seems like there would be a direct and obvious causation: biking without a helmet leads to skull fracture that is not covered by socialized medicine.

          But with smoking, it only increases the probability that you get lung cancer. There are plenty of non-smokers who have ended up with lung cancer…would they get treatment? What about the guy who doesn’t eat enough fiber, and then eventually gets colon cancer? THere’s a potential, but unproven correlation there too….

    • Trai_Dep says:

      @HRHKingFridayXX: I’d be fine with being on my own for drinking or sports-related injuries (happily, not at the same time), so long as those who work stressful jobs (or too much of them) sign off on paying out of pocket for blood pressure and heart surgeries. And overweight people and diabetes, heart problems and bad knees. And smokers and their bionic lungs. And pregnant people and their kids. Don’t even get me started on artificial insemination (and kids resulting from that).
      Oh wait, we’ve excluded everyone except Jimmy scraping his knee learning to ride his bike. OK, he’s next!

      > Pools work best when we don’t get too shrill over others’ “vices”

  12. DeeJayQueue says:

    The more doctors I talk to the more I realize that the medical industry is super-pissed at the insurance industry. The insurance companies won’t cover preventive care things that are cheap, and then they try to wriggle out of paying when that patient comes down with whatever disease could have been prevented.

    Healthcare is so expensive because everything for the healthcare industry has to be bespoke and specialized. Everything from the computers to the hand tools have to either be sealed/cleanable or disposable/single use. Not to mention the machinery has to be made with the absolute highest tolerances. All of this is expensive. Things like MRIs, Xrays, CT scans, etc are all very expensive to administer. This is from an equipment, training and personnel standpoint.

    Then there are the pushes for things like a universal network of record keeping. This would be awesome and would simplify things greatly, but what a logistical nightmare to implement. How do you make sure everyone has the same system without it being a monopoly? How do you ensure everyone’s medical data is safe from hackers and thieves if it’s all online?

    Plus: Tort reform is not the key to lowering the cost of healthcare. How about training the doctors not to fuck up so they won’t get sued? If a doctor wasn’t paying attention and left a sponge inside me, or slipped and made me blind, I’d be suing for millions too. Not because I want a free ticket, but because I’m deformed and can’t work a normal job anymore.

    • humphrmi says:

      @DeeJayQueue: A lot of medical malpractice isn’t “doctors fucking up,” it’s a lot more grey area stuff – risky procedures that even when done correctly may not save the patient, for instance. And the payouts that some people get for these situations far outweighs the losses – not just covering the claimant’s expenses and income, but adding on huge “punitive” damages just to punish the doctor. There does need to be some reform there.

      • mythago says:

        @humphrmi: Punitive damages are very, very difficult to get. You have to prove not only that the doctor was negligent, but what they did was outrageous and shocking. Like, they didn’t just leave a sponge in your body, they left a sponge in your body because the surgeon was blind drunk during the operation and everybody knew it.

        But doctors are easily distracted. Any time they start to think really hard about how they’re getting screwed by their malpractice insurers, the insurance industry’s toadies shout “Watch out! Lawyers!” Works every time.

    • bohemian says:

      @DeeJayQueue: Ironically, I had a doctor “fuck up” and miss what was really wrong with me recently due to the push to have doctors see as many people as possible in an hour. When you have ten minutes to figure out what is wrong with someone and give them an answer, treatment plan and medication things will get missed. Luckily it wasn’t anything major, just inconvenient.

    • TechnoDestructo says:

      @DeeJayQueue:

      Funny you should mention CTs and MRIs.

      Government payment caps in Japan forced manufacturers to develop cheaper scanning equipment…which they probably wouldn’t have done had they not been forced to by payment caps.

      [www.pbs.org]

    • FLConsumer says:

      @DeeJayQueue: Bullmanure. Look at the health expenditures per capita of every country out there. The US’ costs stand out like a sore thumb at 2x the rest of the world, and the rest of the world has better outcomes. There’s greed on multiple levels in this system. Then there’s the overhead of the insurance mess that takes up $0.30-$0.40 of each dollar spent on healthcare in this country.

    • RvLeshrac says:

      @DeeJayQueue:

      If you look (really hard) in your area, you CAN actually find doctors who explicitly will not take any (classical) insurance (some providers act as though you’re using them like a credit card, which is rare, but accepted, and all physcians will take medicare/aid).

      These doctors will usually be providing care for fractions of the norm, since they don’t need the massive support staff to handle claims, and don’t have to overcharge the uninsured to make up for patients who can’t or won’t pay costs not covered by their insurance.

      It isn’t easy to find them, but it does provide more proof that private insurers cause more harm than good.

  13. huadpe says:

    This study has been (correctly) criticized as being extremely flawed. Megan McArdle at The Atlantic makes several points about Elizabeth Warren’s use of statistics. [meganmcardle.theatlantic.com] [meganmcardle.theatlantic.com]

    In particular, Warren’s surveys have well under a 50% response rate. With a sensitive issue such as bankruptcy, this is a huge problem. People with tragic stories who can blame someone else easily will probably be willing to talk about it. People who screwed their finances up through errors and overconsumption probably won’t.

  14. 1stMarDiv says:

    This is exactly why I’m moving to another country…pathetic.

  15. twophrasebark says:

    There should a separate class of bankruptcy for medical bills. You shouldn’t be punished for getting sick.

    • Esquire99 says:

      @twophrasebark:
      Neither should the people that expend time and money to make you better when you file and they don’t get paid.

      • jnews says:

        @Esquire99: You live by the free market, you die by the free market. If you’re a doctor and you’re not making the living you feel you’re entitled to because the free market doesn’t permit you to collect a king’s ransom on every customer, maybe you chose the wrong line of work. Isn’t every other person’s suffering “not my problem”, right? So it’s not my problem that doctors ignorantly felt entitled to get rich when they should have known the risks that might not happen.

        • JulesNoctambule says:

          @jnews: Nicely put.

        • Esquire99 says:

          @jnews:
          A truly free-market wouldn’t allow bankruptcy. People would pay the debts they incur, even if it takes a lifetime.

          • twophrasebark says:

            @Esquire99:

            “A truly free-market wouldn’t allow bankruptcy.”

            That may be the case, but you don’t state any benefit to not allowing bankruptcy.

            The benefit of allowing bankruptcy is that individuals who cannot clean the slate inevitably become a drag on the economy. Too many individuals in debt creates too few people spending money. The economy contracts.

            There is a give and take in a healthy economy. Some people speculate on lending money – if they guess right, they profit. If they guess, they lose money. The consumer who borrows pays for the privilege hoping that the cost outweighs the benefits.

            Preventing bankruptcy is also protecting the lenders from risk. Why should we protect the lenders if we are not protecting the borrowers?

            Bankruptcy is on a consumer credit’s credit report for 10 years. It is not a free pass by any means.

            • Esquire99 says:

              @twophrasebark:
              I disagree. Even without bankruptcy, Lenders are at risk because of the high cost and protracted timeframe of collection. I simply don’t believe people should be able to walk away from properly incurred debts; if it takes them a lifetime to pay it back, so be it. That money will then be pumped back into the economy by the lender/creditor to whom they owe the debt.

              Further, banks, at least in theory, would be able to charge at least somewhat lower interest rates on loans as they wouldn’t have to worry about completely losing the loan; they only need to account for the cost and time to eventually recover.

              Over time, people can get better paying jobs and their ability to repay may increase. Allowing them to discharge their debts today because they currently don’t have the means to pay it doesn’t mean that 5 years down the road they won’t have a job that pays well and they could have made their payments. Moreover, a debt hanging over their head may encourage them to work harder and try to get a better job. I’m not saying this is applicable in all situations, but my argument against bankruptcy still stands.

              All that said, I would definitely favor a bankruptcy that allowed one only to discharge medical bills over the current system. Any restriction on people’s ability to walk away from their obligations is a plus in my book.

              • jamar0303 says:

                @Esquire99: “That money will then be pumped back into the economy by the lender/creditor to whom they owe the debt.”
                That’s one assumption that shouldn’t be relied on. Ever. That’s theory. What happens in practice is another thing entirely.

                “Further, banks, at least in theory, would be able to charge at least somewhat lower interest rates on loans as they wouldn’t have to worry about completely losing the loan; they only need to account for the cost and time to eventually recover.”
                The Grand Canyon-sized chasm between theory and practice is the problem here, primarily caused by the government letting the corporations do as they please.

              • Trai_Dep says:

                @Esquire99: Your take on bankruptcy is at odds with what practically every other learned person says is responsible for the uniquely innovative, entrepreneurial nature of the US economy.
                But we appreciate the notion that you’d like to change us into a Middle-Ages European economy. Really!
                Although, we’ll continue to be much wussier than those stocking-wearing lords & sack-cloth wearing serfs unless we can also make children responsible for their parents’ eternal debts. Can we? Please?!

              • GildaKorn says:

                @Esquire99:
                “Further, banks, at least in theory, would be able to charge at least somewhat lower interest rates on loans as they wouldn’t have to worry about completely losing the loan; they only need to account for the cost and time to eventually recover.”

                Banks are run by smart people. They’ve already worked out all these details. If it made sense to offer a customer a longer payment schedule, they would surely choose that route, rather than “force” their customers in to bankruptcy.

                “Over time, people can get better paying jobs and their ability to repay may increase.”

                This article is about medical bankruptcies. How many people do you suppose go in for a brain tumor and come out ready to get a better job? Come on.

              • Faust says:

                @Esquire99: Exactly who’s lifetime are you talking about here? What if, in the midst of my 50-year pay plan, I die in year 15 with only 10% paid? Does it get passed on to my decendants? Do they then have to spend their “lifetime” paying my debt?

                Actually, don’t bother answering that. I’m sure the answer you give is “yes” to all of that.

          • mythago says:

            @Esquire99: And by “people” you mean “corporations”, correct? I don’t think many of your fellow corp-huggers would be pleased at the idea of ditching their handy dandy reorganization plans.

          • Trai_Dep says:

            @Esquire99: A truly free market health care center would arm the triage nurse with a revolver, and if the patient couldn’t prove ability to pay quickly enough…

      • bohemian says:

        @Esquire99: Do you work for a hospital or an insurance company?

    • bohemian says:

      @twophrasebark: I have thought this for years. There needs to be two classes of bankruptcy for Ch7 & Ch13 with one being “medical”.

      It would still show as a bankruptcy but creditors could see that it was due to medical bills, not because your a gambling addict or bought an entire house of designer crap on your credit cards and couldn’t pay it off.

      They are two drastically different situations.

    • Skaperen says:

      @twophrasebark: If only it were that simple. In many cases where medical costs lead to bankruptcy, there are other factors along the way. Maybe they borrowed to cover the bills. Maybe they are losing the house. Maybe there was a layoff at the same time.

      If all you have is a hospital or doctors trying to collect, just don’t pay. They know that if they sue, then you will file bankruptcy and they just blew a few grand on lawyers for nothing.

      In any event, someone else is paying for your medical costs either way. We might as well just simplify it so we are looking at the legitimate per-patient costs (that the government pays) rather than costs that are multiplied by the hospital’s need to cover those other patients that don’t pay (which ends up making even more patients unable to pay and so the death spiral goes on).

      I’m all for the universal health care socialized medicine … just as long as it isn’t a copy of the Canadian system.

  16. b.k. says:

    When we ran this story on Friday, there was an interview with a couple who recently had to file bankruptcy after their insurers refused to pay for more than 10% of their medical treatments. The problem was, the husband dared to have a triple bypass surgery at the same time his wife was diagnosed with breast cancer. Their insurer balked at having to pay for both at once. You know, because people can totally plan when to have cancer.

  17. Anonymous says:

    I’m not sure why, especially after this past decade or so, *anyone* would want the government expanding its control over our lives.

    Everything the government does, it invariably ends up f’ing up. It can’t regulate markets well, wage wars well, protect the environment well… I mean just look at your local Post Office or DMV! (Not to mention the debacle of Social Security or Medicare… or you know, balancing a budget.)

    And now we want to put them in charge of our HEALTH? I don’t mean for this to sound like a tirade against Democrats or Republicans in particular, but in the whole lot of them. They’re all full of hot air, and I wouldn’t trust any of them with something this important.

    • TechnoDestructo says:

      @DamonFucci:

      Actually, the last two DMVs I dealt with were quick, efficient, and helpful. (And given the local vehicular cultures, necessary.)

      One of those did used to be beyond any parody of the DMV, though. Beyond Primus’s “Stood in line and waited near an hour and fifteen” DMV. (More like an hour and 45.) It was so bad that a family friend uprooted her family and transferred to another city so she wouldn’t have to work there anymore.

      What made the difference? The godawful manager died.

    • captbob says:

      @DamonFucci: You’re right, I’d feel so much better being “protected” by a big corporation like AIG, Enron, GM or Washington Mutual.

      My DMV took all of 10 mins to replace a lost drivers license, and my tax bill comes right on time every year…wish I could say the same for our health insurance refund checks….

  18. Coopon says:

    I worked for a short period of time at one of the credit reporting companies so I viewed a lot of credit reports. This report doesn’t surprise me at all. Many of the bankruptcies I saw had medical expenses listed. Some of them had consumer notes about how their bankruptcy was due to medical bills. It changed how I viewed bankruptcies.

  19. bostonguy says:

    Back in 2001-2003 I was hospitalized a lot at Mass General Hospital in Boston. (I think in that time I was averaging an ER visit/hospitalization every 2-3 weeks).

    In late 2002, after about 1.5 years of repeated admissions, etc, the hospital sent me a HUGE bill, for something from almost every admission I had. I spent a couple of days trying to sort it out, and after I found at least a few cases where they were trying to bill me for a co-pay that I had cancelled checks for, I called them to straighten it out.

    At first, they tried to find various billing exceptions that would allow them to lower my liability (family member that was a veteran, etc).

    By the time the following spring/summer rolled around, they ended up wiping my entire account clean, because they just couldn’t account for what I had/hadn’t paid for. And this is for what is in actuality a great world class teaching hospital!

    • Skaperen says:

      @bostonguy: Even in a very simple case of going over to a hospital to get an X-ray to take back to my doctor’s office (he felt no need to buy his own X-ray machine since his office was right next to the hospital), I paid for the X-ray right up front with a credit card and yet the hospital re-billed me for it. Even with a copy of their merchant receipt that the credit card company managed to get for me showing not only that I paid, but that they received the money, they still tried to collect. It was only under a threat of lawsuit did they finally back down.

    • TechnoDestructo says:

      @bostonguy:

      So…30 percent of our collective worlds-highest-by-far health care bill goes to administration…and that is the result.

      Brilliant.

    • perruptor says:

      @bostonguy: Did you happen to read the Globe Spotlight series on how Partners Healthcare (half of which is Mass General) blackmailed BCBS and the other insurers into paying them more that they pay other hospitals? MG gets more for a procedure than a hospital in Framingham, even though it’s the exact same procedure, and even if the same doctor performs it.
      [www.boston.com]

  20. negitoro says:

    This is why I’m glad I live in Canada.

    • mariospants says:

      @negitoro: Seconded. You can be as sick as you like. Makes people happy not to worry about shit like that. More productive, too.

    • Trai_Dep says:

      @negitoro: I tease my Northern brothers & sisters about many things here, but I’m SO envious of both your health care and the deep consideration you take before engaging in wars.
      Hats – err, parkas – off!

  21. t0ph says:

    I had an accident last year and I am now over $110k in debt. Less than 10k of that is credit card and the remainder of my student loan. I never thought I would do it, but I just hired a bankruptcy attorney.

    • TEW says:

      @t0ph: I am truly sorry for your situation. However don’t feel bad about declaring bankruptcy. One might argue that many Americans might be better off financially if they declare bankruptcy and the stigma is gone.

    • Skaperen says:

      @t0ph: A friend of mine went through bankruptcy a few years ago. He had a new credit card within 6 months of the chapter 7 discharge. They knew he could not declare bankruptcy again for a few years, and had no other debts to compete. So he was actually less of a credit risk.

    • cluberti says:

      @t0ph: Bankruptcy for medical reasons is nothing to worry about, nor have a stigma over. In a year or two you’ll be able to start rebuilding your credit, hopefully you’re now healthy, and you can get back to life. Good luck to you.

  22. Anonymous says:

    When business cares for health, and covering you depends on if the company can profit – that’s health insurance.

    The US is the last major country to keep using this broken system. I sold health insurance to retirees and made $2,000+ for 1-2 hours work. And you wonder why it’s so expensive.

  23. Skankingmike says:

    Don’t have insurance always go to a hospital and claim not to speak English or have any ID. They will have to help you.

    Fixed our insurance problem.

    (I have actually done something like this never got a bill.

    I told them I don’t’ live in the state (truth) I don’t have insurance(truth) I didn’t have id(lie) and I lived at some made up address.

    Though they may now require you to pay for your medical bills before you leave…. not sure.

    • Trai_Dep says:

      @Skankingmike: But you veer Conservative. Isn’t that like an abridgment of the Social Contract or Fierce Individualism or rejecting fair & free markets?

      • Skankingmike says:

        @Trai_Dep: Oh I’m totally for some sort of social medicine I think that’s a conservative stance actually. A government has to protect it’s citizen does it not?

        I just fear people abusing it like politicians.

        @TechnoDestructo: was unaware they still had such a place.

        But sure use a credit card and and never pay for it.

        • Trai_Dep says:

          @Skankingmike: You realize, of course, that politicians are already the beneficiaries of European-style “Socialist medicine”?
          One of the perks of winning office is a guaranteed pension and lifetime health care for them and their dependents?
          Which isn’t a moral problem for the ones trying to reform the system that everyone else uses – no hypocrisy there.
          But all the “Let the Free Market” decide people (the Bushes, Phil Gramm, Newt, Hannity…)? They’re saying, “YOU guys suffer the slings and arrows, but for us? No thanks. KBYE!”

          I’d like to see a law that forces Congress and Executive staffers to have the same health care that everyone else does. Guarantee that once it passes, we’d have a Canadian-style system within two weeks)

          PS: You position on health care is far from Conservative. It’s Progressive, actually. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. But it’s commendable that cant doesn’t rule your life. :)

    • TechnoDestructo says:

      @Skankingmike:

      And what are they going to do to you if you don’t? Debtor’s prison?

  24. BrazDane says:

    People need to understand that a government CAN administer health care and that paying for it through taxes makes sense.

    A government is non-profit and has YOUR well-being in mind, otherwise you vote to change it they way you like. An insurance company is NEVER going to have your welfare as their top priority – their responsibility is to their stockholders and others, such as high-paid executives, who make a fabulous living off of the money they deny you for treatment.
    Simply by taking this ‘middle-man’ out of the picture, you are going to have A LOT more money to use for health care.

    This would also help with the lawsuits and tort problems. If the majority of hospitals are public, the doctors don’t have to worry about this kind of insurance at all. Then, they can negotiate a fair rate for their work (doctors are usually very well paid in other countries with socialized medicine), and be rid of all the squabbling with insurance companies over which procedures can be paid for: The patient gets the treatment the doctor wants to give him – he doesn’t have to answer to any bean counters.

    This would solve most of the doctors’ problems, and most of the patients’ problems too!

    Now wait for the outcry from someone whose sympathies lie with the insurance companies…

    • chris_d says:

      @BrazDane:
      I hate the ins. companies as much as anyone here, but this statement is laughable:
      “A government is non-profit and has YOUR well-being in mind”
      The government of my country is run by politicians, who have some have their own + some wealthy person/corporation/organization’s well-being in mind, not mine. I can tell by the political ads that many of the people who vote in elections are morons because the ads seem to be effective.

      • chris_d says:

        @chris_d:
        Ooops…
        The government of my country is run by politicians who have their own career + some wealthy person/corporation/organization’s well-being in mind…

      • perruptor says:

        @chris_d: The US government already runs the best health-care system in the world: the VHA hospital system. They provide excellent care to a large body of people, who give much higher marks to the system than patients of the civilian hospitals. This care is provided at much lower cost, as well.
        [www.washingtonmonthly.com]

        • smonkey says:

          @perruptor: Just ask all the people at Walter Reed!

          • Trai_Dep says:

            @smonkey: Walter Reed isn’t the VA.
            Walter Reed was hosed because Bush cut hundreds of millions of dollars from their budget because, while his party likes giving lip service to soldiers, when the metal hits the road, he and they prefer to urinate on them if it means their lobbyist buddies get a fatter share of the Federal kitty.
            Nice that you like keeping these guys in to run things, though. That’s real patriotism!

          • perruptor says:

            @smonkey: Walter Reed is an Army hospital. It isn’t part of the VHA.

      • Trai_Dep says:

        @chris_d: Easy. Don’t vote people in to run government who blather on about government always being the problem and you’ll see a marked improvement in how government programs run.

    • Antiks says:

      @BrazDane: Our Government doesn’t have our wellbeing in mind. Wake up – these people are handing our money over to the upper crust in society. Just look at corporate welfare and the lobbying industry.

    • anthonyhasp says:

      @BrazDane: A government WILL send men with guns after you if you decide not to participate in their healthcare plan. An insurance company will just leave you alone.

      Remember kids, INSURANCE is not a health care plan.

      The purpose of insurance is to insure against the unexpected. If you eat 20 twinkies a day, a heart attack is not unexpected. If you smoke 3 packs a day, lung cancer is not unexpected. Preventative care is your responsibility. Get your annual check up. Don’t do stupid things. When we socialize the consequences of our lifestyle choices, we will end up giving society authority over our lifestyle choices. If my insurer doesn’t want to cover me because I decide to start sky diving, they’ll just cancel my coverage. If the government is my de facto insurer, sky diving is made illegal and I’ll go to jail if I engage in it.

      “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

  25. Happy13178 says:

    Do people really think that Universal Healthcare means America will become a global haven for socialism? Seems like everytime I see a report from an American tv network on healthcare they’re talking about it being socialist or revoutionary…how revolutionary can it be if Canada is doing it? Not for nothing, but if the US govt spent as much time an effort on the healthcare system as they do on military matters, this would have been solved already. That’s not a shot against the military, it’s just an observation on what’s considered a priority by the government. Putting stupid political nonsense aside, why should americans care more about Iraq and whatnot than they do about their own health? I’m asking honestly…I truly can’t see it.

    • nataku8_e30 says:

      @Happy13178: Well, I’m fairly concerned about Universal Health Care in the US since the current administration is basically talking about preserving private health insurance and then creating a federally administered alternative, which will still have fees (I guess kind of like the US Post Office). This basically preserves all of the inefficiency and inefficacy of private insurance while adding additional tax burden.

      Private insurance is basically the worst of socialism and capitalism combined – healthy people are responsible for paying for the cost of caring for sick people, there’s essentially zero competition between health insurance companies since most insured are insured through their employer and therefore cannot shop around, and at the same time everyone is paying for the massive amounts of overhead that come from paperwork processing at the doctor’s office, health insurance company employees, health insurance company executives and health insurance company shareholders. In addition, health insurance companies profit by denying claims – so it’s in their best interest to avoid doing what you are paying them to do – this is not what I would call a healthy business model.

      The only reasonable way to reduce health care costs would be to eliminate these above listed costs, which can be done either by completely eliminating health insurance or by creating a single payer system. The multi-payer system with the federal government as one option would simply eliminate the massive executive compensation and revenue sent to shareholders, but at the same time it would create a way for private companies to shift sick, expensive patients to public insurance and basically just keep the profitable customers (supposedly, this has been a major problem with the health care system in Massachusetts). Personally, I would take no health insurance over our current system, but this would require that health insurance be completely eliminated, or at least that there be a network of doctors that do not accept health insurance, thereby keeping down overhead costs by not requiring the facilities necessary for processing insurance paperwork. A single payer health care plan would be ideal.

      The other argument against universal health care is that somehow this would reduce the quality of health care and somehow adversely affect pharmaceutical companies. I don’t see how this is even remotely possible, as we’re only talking about how health care is funded, not the actual health care provided…

      • Trai_Dep says:

        @nataku83: If there’s an opt-in choice for a government-funded option (not a given: call your Congress & Senate reps to demand it) then it will force insurers to either match this choice or watch as everyone flees them.
        Given the political realities, it’s not a bad option, and over the long run will use market pressure to either deeply reform the private insurers or drive them out of business.
        But seriously, insist this option is included. Insurance companies are terrified of it, for good reason: it’ll cut off their gravy train.

        • nataku8_e30 says:

          @Trai_Dep: The problem with this type of opt-in program is, yes, people may leave their private insurer if the government program is well run, but what’s been happening in Massachusetts is that the private insurers are denying claims and in general making life difficult for their high needs customers, causing them to move over to the government plan, which does not discriminate. The private insurance companies then make their plans attractive to healthy, young, low risk individuals, who would normally be funding those higher cost individuals who have essentially been forced off the plan. The government funded plan is then way over budget since their customers cost way more than the revenue they can generate, and the private insurers make out like a bandit since they have very few claims to pay, even if they have overall reduced business. I don’t think there is any kind of multiple payer program that can possibly work, and unfortunately for the private insurance companies, there is no solution to rising health care costs that doesn’t end with them disappearing. Of course, we’ll never actually do that because it would mean legally shutting down perfectly profitable businesses, so we will probably end up enacting some sort of multiple payer plan, and all of the universal health care naysayers will get to gloat since it will be a disaster.

      • Happy13178 says:

        @nataku83: Re: reducing quality of healthcare….I don’t see that happening. I’ve seen a few documentaries showing some Canadians who were stuck on waiting lists and had to go to the US for treatment, since when they paid they could get there quicker, but I have to think these guys are the exception. Yes, waiting room times are long, but as near as I can tell, thats not something that’s exclusive to UHC…private hospitals have wait times too. But Universal health care doesn’t bankrupt people either…at least not with the single provider system we (Canada) have now.

  26. There's room to move as a fry cook says:

    The US is the only major country in the world without gov’t health care. I’ve lived in both the US & Canada and would rather pay higher taxes than the equivalent amount going to an insurance company that still dings you with co-pays and deductibles, has a limit on benefits, has a short list of in-plan doctors and hospitals, and can and does deny claims and deny coverage. I know people in the US who only stick with their shitty employers because they are afraid of losing their health benefits.

    • nataku8_e30 says:

      @IfThenElvis: My g/f is in exactly that position – she has to work nights, but can’t afford to lose her insurance. The whole pre-existing condition clause makes things even worse – if you have some sort of chronic illness, you may be able to go several months without health care / insurance, but once you get another job with new insurance, they won’t pay for that pre-existing condition for usually about a year.

  27. boxjockey68 says:

    Question: What is the most common cause of death under government run health care?

    Answer: Government run health care.

    I think I am gonna find a homeopathic doc right away.

  28. jamar0303 says:

    One more person dead is one less person paying taxes, if you lean that cynically. So they do have another motivation.

  29. PrestonBerryworth says:

    I’m 27. I’m a very health individual. I’ve used my insurance only a few times since I started working fulltime 7 years ago. I pay $80 per month, which my company matches. Insurance has gotton about $6720 from me and my company.

    My foot started hurting like a mother a few weeks ago. An X-ray is taken, which turns up two ball like objects. I get scheduled for an MRI. Insurance denies MRI and tells me I have gout. Spoke with doctor who prescribed gout medicine. Here I am a month later. Foot still hurts slightly, gout medicine did nothing other then make me feel funny for a few days. F**k you insurance.

  30. drunken marmot says:

    We need to fix healthcare. I don’t know how, but it needs to be done soon.
    My own story is that I have a serious heart problem, am generally healthy and and am constantly juggling medical bills even with insurance.
    I guess it’s good to know I’m not alone.

  31. FoxCMK says:

    There are WAY more reasons for the sky-high cost of medical care in this country than those listed above (Big Pharma’s lack of patent protection certainly not one of them). Fix those and you fix the problems facing healthcare in this country.

    Nationalization of healthcare is not the answer. But then, most people just go for the easy, “throw-more-money-at-it” solution anyway.

  32. veg-o-matic says:

    @etherealclarity: Hahahaha. Cato.

    Oh, I’m sorry. You were being serious.

  33. BrazDane says:

    Having talked to many American college students who have visited other countries with socialized health care, they all seem genuinely impressed with it and happy to not have to worry about all kinds of co-pays, limitations, permissions, etc.
    Just listen to those posting from abroad on this forum (whether they are Americans living abroad, or foreigners, such as Canadians) NOBODY has written and said their system does not work and that they would much rather have the US system. On the contrary, they LIKE IT.

    In the end, you pay the same, whether you pay to a health insurance company or you pay extra tax for health insurance, but the latter model gets you MUCH MORE for your money. It is truly sad when something as important as the health of a population becomes a for-profit business.

    And I find it SO ironic, that some people absolutely cannot get over the idea of socialized medicine: After all, you have American tax dollars building hospitals and funding medical clinics in Iraq! How do you reconcile those facts?

    I have nothing against the military, indeed respect anyone serving very much, but maybe some of those many jobs could be converted into taking care of Americans here in the US.

    Actually, a provocative thought: If just half of US military budgets were used for health care for Americans, we would probably save more lives every year than ever died in any terrorist attack…

  34. Rebecca Tants Barber says:

    This study really doesn’t tell the whole story. As was put well by a bankruptcy attorney “medical bills are often a PROXIMATE cause of a bankruptcy, but they’re more in the nature of a precipitating cause than a root cause.” In other words they are the last straw for a family already handling their finances poorly.

    See:
    [www.arizonabankruptcyblog.info]

  35. Anonymous says:

    I had an accident 10 months ago that broke my leg requiring 2 surgeries and 9 days in the hospital. The cost was not quite $103K and I was left with $20K in debt. Medical costs are outrageous! If I don’t file bankruptcy it will take many, many years to pay this all off because we just don’t make enough money for large monthly payments. The little po-dunk local hospital that I was originally transported to demanded $100 a month payment (overnight stay $8K of which after insurance I still owed $2600) and when I said I couldn’t afford that they sent me to collection. When that didn’t work they hired a law firm from another city so as not to get a bad reputation in town. I’ll be making sure that the people of this town do find out about it though. It’s just absolute crap that I pay a hefty amount for health insurance each month and yet I’m still stuck with this much debt.