Report: Debt Collectors Work In Emergency Rooms, Demand Payment Before Patients Receive Care

One of the nation’s largest medical debt collection companies — already the subject of a lawsuit over alleged privacy violations — finds itself in more hot water as newly released documents claim that agency employees are actually working in hospital emergency rooms and sometimes demanding that patients pay up before they receive any further medical attention.

The New York Times reports on hundreds of pages of documents pertaining to the debt collector’s practices obtained from the Minnesota Attorney General.

According to the Times, the debt collector promises savings and increased collections to hospitals if they turn over control of certain administrative functions. This includes putting employees of the collections company in the emergency room:

Indistinguishable from medical staff members… employees register patients, take down sensitive health information and champion aggressive bill collection goals with incentives like gift cards for staff members, the company records show…

Employees in the emergency room were told to ask incoming patients first for a credit-card payment. If that fails, employees are told to say, “If you have your checkbook in your car I will be happy to wait for you,” internal documents show.

“Patients are harassed mercilessly,” one hospital staffer tells the Minnesota AG.

Adds a second employee, “We were told if we don’t get money from patients, in the emergency room, we will be fired.”

Doctors complained that the collections agency’s tactics were keeping some patients from seeking life-saving procedures. The documents say that the collections folks dismissed the concerns as “country club talk,” whatever that means.

In addition to the Minnesota hospitals mentioned in the documents, the collections company also has contracts with large health care chains based in Michigan and Utah.

“I have every reason to believe that what they are doing in Minnesota is simply company practice,” Minnesota AG Lori Swanson tells the Times, adding that she is currently talking to her peers at other states and on the federal level about this agency’s practices.

Swanson’s office filed suit against the agency back in January after a laptop was stolen containing around 23,500 patient files, which also contained very specific information about the patients’ conditions and treatments that no one outside the hospital should have access to without patients’ consent.

Debt Collector Is Faulted for Tough Tactics in Hospitals [NY Times]

Thanks to Howard for the tip!

Comments

Edit Your Comment

  1. Bladerunner says:

    I’m sure what they were doing was even more reprehensible than what’s mentioned here, however, it’s positively astounding how many people abuse ERs in this country, and with no intention of paying. And they’re poor enough usually to make going after them not worth it, so I can understand if not condone.

    Which is one among the reasons I wish we had single-payer, but I digress.

    • FacebookAppMaker says:

      I’m lucky I live in Canada. If it wasn’t for “socialist” healthcare. I can’t count how many times I have needed to enter the emergency room due to one of my medical conditions. Severe enough to seek medical attention, not severe enough to call 911.

      Hell, if I was charged the going rate in the U.S for each of my visits just in April, I would be bankrupt.

      • speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

        I know people in Canada who work in the office of the public health system there, and yes, some users have gripes about it. But everyone I know says that the Republicans are fucking liars and the situation in this country is a stinking mess.

        • finbar says:

          A brief, honest assessment of the situation. Cheers!

        • cspschofield says:

          My only objection to you singling out the Republicans is that it omits the Democrats, who are ALSO liars. If the system is broken (and I won’t argue the point) then the last 15 layers of legislation intended to fix it are also broken. Before we try single payer, which has a history that isn’t all sunshine and roses, I’d like to see some of those layers repealed, and then a couple of years waiting period to see where we really are.

          But I’m a Crank.

          • who? says:

            Single payer may not be sunshine and roses, but the absolute *worst of the worst* of what single payer offers is a hell of a lot better than what we have in the US now.

            I’ve heard all the complaints about single payer (I work for a British company, so most of my coworkers are Brits), but I’ve never, ever, heard anyone who actually has single payer now that says they’d like to switch to what we have in the US. They all think our system is barbaric.

            • MrEvil says:

              Same here, I work for a company based in the UK and all my colleagues on the other side of the Atlantic still scratch their heads at America’s healthcare system.

              • consumerd says:

                yea, tell them they are not alone.. I keep scratching my head too. Makes me want to just sell the house and move. Least then the american financial and healthcare apocalypse won’t absorb me. I will either be across the pond or across the border.

                I honestly don’t think whoever I put in office has any more idea than the next, and certainly not enough cash to do anything about it.

            • Firethorn says:

              I’m a self-confessed libertarian, and I tend to describe our medical system as one that ‘carefully combines the worst aspects of the free market and socialism’. IE it’s worse than what a true free market would provide, and it’s worse than what a completely socialist(IE single payer) system would.

        • FacebookAppMaker says:

          Of course our system isn’t all that great. I routinely wait 3-4 hours for medical care. I even go out of the way to go to a hospital further away because the wait doesn’t last as long… and it’s still 3-4 hours.

          However, we also triage. So if I came in with a half-amputated arm, I would see immediate medical attention.

      • Fubish says: I don't know anything about it, but it seems to me... says:

        A Canadian friend and his wife came to visit us here in Vermont. That afternoon she lost consciousness because of an illness. We rushed her to an emergencty room. She was treated and discharged that night. They got a bill from the hospital: $10,000.

        TEN-THOUSAND fucking dollars. Every time I hear a rant about “socialized medicine” or “Everybody in this country can have access to health by going to an emergency room,” (this from a United States Senaor!) I want to puke.

      • chargernj says:

        I’m curious to know how long the wait is in a Canadian ER? Is it much longer than the wait in a comparable US hospital ER? That’s what they have been telling us for years. That the Canadian health care system is inefficient and that you have to wait forever for even routine procedures.

        Personally, I think it’s one of those Republican “dog whistles”. Those who have good insurance in the US don’t want to give up their privileged position and to in line with the rest of the proles. The idea that health care is a finite resource that should be given to those whose need is most critical instead of who can pay more is somehow offensive to many people.

        • FacebookAppMaker says:

          ER’s are triaged, as they should be.

          For a minor issue, it could be a 3-4 hour wait. When I go in for my medical condition, it’s usually not an urgent thing, just something that needs to be addressed. So I end up waiting while those with more urgent needs go first.

          I have no problem with that. If someone comes into the ER in pain from a broken bone, I don’t expect to go before them just because I have been waiting an hour.

          • chargernj says:

            Sounds pretty much like my local hospital in Jersey City as far as wait times are concerned. They triage too.

          • Happy Tinfoil Cat says:

            I live in California. My local hospital let a 6 year old girl die from being hit by a car. It took her 8 hours to die in the ER and never was seen by a doctor. Another one died last week under similar conditions. When I was bleeding profusely, I told the EMTs “anywhere but there” but they knew I’d already lost over a gallon of blood and took me there anyway because it was the closest. I learned a lesson that day. To be seen in under 6 hours, arrive in an ambulance.

    • goodcow says:

      If I didn’t have insurance I would “abuse” emergency rooms. The entire system is fucking broken and we need single-payer.

      • Necoras says:

        If you’re going to the ER for routine treatment you probably fall into one of three categories.

        A) you qualify for medicaid, in which case you shouldn’t be in the ER.

        B) You honestly don’t know any better.

        C) You can afford a $100 trip to something like a Care Now (which isn’t a fantastic medical institution, but is affordable) but choose not to because you’d rather not pay anything because you believe the system is broken.

        A and B should be educated. C should be charged the exorbitant ER prices up before receiving treatment.

        • speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

          Theoretically qualifying for Medicaid and actually getting Medicaid, and actually getting medical care while on Medicaid, are three completely different things.

          • iblamehistory says:

            Completely agreed. You know who gets Medicaid? Pregnant women, children, and sometimes those with children. Other than that, you’re SOL, no matter how low your income is, unless you have a very specific condition which automatically qualifies you.

            I’m on Medicaid until I give birth, unfortunately. I don’t have a primary doctor. I had to resort to the ER for a horrible sinus and ear infection because NOBODY would take me unless I had 2-3 weeks to wait. Had I paid out of pocket or had real insurance, I could have waltzed into any one of several providers I called (or rather, my husband called, because my ears were filled with so much infection that I could not hear–I woke up this way suddenly after a cold turned into something worse.) But no, on Medicaid? You’re not getting treatment. Go straight to the ER, do not pass go, do not collect $200 because that may leave you $1 over the income limit and if so you lose ANY benefits whatsoever.

        • kobresia says:

          Or, there’s option D– Living month-to-month on a very tight margin, making too much money to qualify for government assistance or reduced rates at the local family clinic, and no insurance benefits provided by employer who is gaming the system by hiring multitudes of part-time employees rather than an appropriate number of full-time employees who qualify for benefits.

          So it’s worth noting that a lot of these visits are probably not “routine treatment”, they’re health conditions that could’ve been treated cheaply and easily if they were addressed sooner, but they just deteriorated until their ailments met the conditions under which a hospital couldn’t turn them away from urgent-care.

          So when you’re in that situation, and you suffer an infection, get sick, or feel an odd pain somewhere, what do you do? Pay more money than you can afford to visit a doctor, who may write you a prescription that you can’t afford to have filled, and then eat from dumpsters from the rest of the month? Or would you just pray to your deity of choice, hope for the best, and go to the ER when your condition has deteriorated to the point you know you really have no choice to do that or die?

          I’ve been in that situation before, working as a contractor. It’s REALLY not fun, though I was fortunate that I just never had any significant injuries or illnesses. It was like pulling teeth to find a physician who would give me a halfway reasonable cash rate to take care of exceedingly minor things (I had to drive 50 miles each way to get to the doctor’s office), since almost all practices these days want thousands of dollars for anything, believing they can charge what they want and medicare or insurance will take care of it.

          That, in a nutshell, is what is wrong with the US health care system, which may just be in the process of being slightly more right (if it doesn’t get struck down by the courts). Maybe if the individual mandate to buy insurance, with the premiums being made affordable or subsidized all goes into effect, then debt collectors in the ER will become a thing of the past, a quaint memory of a thoroughly dysfunctional wreck of a system.

          • MeowMaximus says:

            The sad truth is that Obamacare wont make it any better. We do DRASTICALLY need healthcare reform, no question. It needs to start with tort reform, so Doctors can afford malpractice insurance. We need to break the power of the AMA over the industry. We need some method of insuring that a bad Doctors lose their licenses, and cant get new ones in another state. We need to allow Nurses to perform more procedures. We also need to keep them from being forced to work insane hours without having to form a union. We need to kick the FDA in the ass to spend more time working on approving new drugs, and less time faffing about.

            • ARP says:

              All the studies (and real life) show that tort reform has done little to contain costs. States that have tort reform don’t have appreciably lower medical care costs.

              • RvLeshrac says:

                Most notably, Texas, who shouted from the rafters about how amazing tort reform would be in that state, is now paying substantially higher malpractice insurance rates than surrounding states while offering absolutely no recourse to patients whose lives are completely destroyed by negligent physicians.

          • tooluser says:

            If you don’t qualify for government assistance then you should pay for yourself. You have money. Use it for what you need.

            The single payer should be you.

            • Such an Interesting Monster says:

              And if you can’t afford that $1500 ER visit or that $200 doctor’s office fee I guess you just curl up and die, right?

              • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

                Don’t forget to also pay your penalty for not having mandated minimum coverage and then curl up and die.

        • SecretAgentWoman says:

          I think you are under the impression that being poor alone qualifies one for medicaid. It doesn’t.

          You have to be poor AND a child OR permanently disabled OR over 65.

          So, anyone poor between the ages of 18-64 are SOL. Period.

          Until Obamacare kicks in in 2014. :)

      • Theoncomingstorm says:

        So, you’re saying you have a right to my money to pay for your medical needs?

        • BrienBear Thinks Stupidity Defies Logic says:

          Yes, actually. That’s what happens when you live in a civilized country.

          My money got spent on a couple wars that were bullshit. But big deal. I don’t like some things my money gets spent on, but I like others. It’s called a trade-off. You don’t get to pick and choose where the money goes, but you do get to choose who represents you. And obviously, most of the country chose “socialist” healthcare reform by voting Obama. We’ll see what plays out after this year if they still feel the same.

        • speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

          YES, and YOU have a right to MY money to pay for YOUR medical needs, because we live in a civilized society and not in your dog-eat-dog fantasy world.

        • Such an Interesting Monster says:

          So my money shouldn’t get spent to upkeep the roads around your house? Or fund the school your kids are in?

          Welcome to a civilized society. I know it hurts, but trust me, it gets better once you pull your head out of your ass.

          • Naked-Gord-Program says:

            Yep. I can’t stand the military nor have kids in school. Guess if they shouldn’t have to chip in for healthcare I shouldn’t have to chip in for the war machine or schools.

            • SavijMuhdrox says:

              you let the roads and schools go to shit, and watch the value of your house plummet.. that inherent relation kinda removes THAT discussion from the on-topic one of ridiculous health insurance premiums..

              • Naked-Gord-Program says:

                Not as many schools would be needed if more parents had abortions.

                Why do those without kids have to pay for schools for parents who refuse to have abortions yet you don’t want to be part of a system that provides healthcare to everyone (including yourself).

            • Alliance to Restore the Republic of the United States of America says:

              I’m in Afghanistan. They have no taxes for roads or schools or healthcare or military. Look where that got them, and us.

              Even without the war this place is the shittiest piece of dirt on earth. No wonder that all want to die for Allah. I would too if this was my daily reality with no hope of change.

              Contrast that with say, Germany. High taxes for roads, schools, military, healthcare. Clean place, relatively pleasant, civil and no one’s going to kill your girlfriend for wearing a skirt or driving a car.

              • jumpycore says:

                I have to agree. The Afghan Army, the roads, the community as a whole is not very well taken care of. Hell I would often see the ANA/OSG going through our trash for clothes and shit. A lot of the roads are shit, some of the better ones the army made, but the taliban just blow the roads to pieces anyways.

                Germany is ridiculous with taxes…what 19% of income right? Plus ridiculous taxes for say, rain water. They pay a tax on rainwater that is collected in a basin or whatever you want to call it, at your house and used in the showers/sinks to conserve on water consumption. But I have to say, they have a much higher standard of living than in the US. It’s a damn shame I can’t stay in germany longer. that’s definitely a place i’d love to live…minus the language barrier but thats just a small hiccup.

        • 2 Replies says:

          After you pay YOUR money to the government to pay YOUR tax responsibility,
          it’s NOT YOUR MONEY anymore.
          So YOU don’t get to say who or what it is used to help.

          Get over yourself and your communistic “everyone is paying for everyone, it’s MY/OUR money” thinking.

        • Leksi Wit says:

          Single payer works. Our system is so messed up–My husband and I who are self-employed and both under 40 (I am much younger than him in fact) pay nearly $600/mo for health insurance with a $10,000 deductible + no prescription benefits until the deductible is met. We have no kids, this is for two healthy, fit adults with no major medical problems. The insurance carrier keeps raising the rates every year. The rates DO NOT include maternity insurance or long-term care. It is a basic PPO plan from BlueCross BlueShield of Illinois. I am terrified of what will happen when we hit into our 40’s. I very much doubt we will be able to afford medical insurance at that point. >.

          • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

            Wow, that really sucks.

            We have essentially the same insurance for a family of 4 ($10,000 HDHP with no Rx, no maternity, and no dental/vision) and we pay around $400/month for it.

          • icerabbit says:

            That’s what we used to pay years ago, now we’re at $1100/mo with a $5000 deductible each … if we want a lower deductible it only goes up higher & higher.

            It is absolutely outrageous. Paying more for catastrophic coverage per month, without benefits, than people make in other industrialized nations without for profit health insurance.

            • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

              $1,100/month for a $5,000 deductible is about what we were paying last year. It was bumped up to $1,200 for 2012 — That’s why we doubled our deductible and cut about $800/month from our premium.

              It’s absolutely ridiculous.

              • icerabbit says:

                I haven’t reviewed the rates in recent months, but it seemed there was no “value” really or enough of a premium discount to go with a $7.5k or $10k deductible.

                At that point you are out of pocket 20grand before they intervene. Worst case scenario 30 grand before they cover the second person.

                10-12 grand in your annual premium
                + 10k before they pay out benefits for family member 1
                + 10k before they pay out benefits for family member 2.

                INSANE …

                And most people with coverage from the government or through a large employer where they pay a few hundred dollars per month for good coverage – have NO idea that insurance costs on the retail market as an individual policy holder now costs > $1k/month.

                So it always touches a nerve when the general population doesn’t understand that the for profit system with so many for profit billion dollar insurance companies and more administrative overhead wasting billions of dollars is broken.

                The US is the only industrialized country where people routinely are denied care even though they have insurance.

                They are the only industrialized country where people go bankrupt because of medical bills.

                Even though we spend more on insurance per capita, we have millions of people without coverage and tens of millions of people that are under-covered.

                Sigh.

                • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

                  I completely agree — Most people pay their $300/month and don’t realize their employer is throwing in an extra $1,200/month on top of it. The average cost of a group family policy just broke $20,000 this year. It’s absolutely insane.

                  We were able to save around $10,000/year by increasing our deductible by $5,000. It definitely worked out for us, especially considering premiums are paid with after-tax dollars and HSA contributions with pre-tax money.

                  Last year, it was hard stomaching our $1,000/month premiums and having to pay for everything out-of-pocket anyways.

              • Bsamm09 says:

                Well in 6.25 months you have saved enough in your hsa to cover the $5k increase in deductible. Sounds like you made the right decision.

          • Stormwalker says:

            These sound like some pretty crazy rates? I’m in my mid 30s, and my premium is $113 per month for a $3000 deductible plan, and I get 3 free office visits per year. I just shopped around using ehealthinsurance and healthcare.gov or whatever.

        • Naked-Gord-Program says:

          Sure.

          Sounds good.

          If you don’t like it you’re welcome to go to a Republican primary and cheer when the topic of someone dying because they can’t afford medical care comes up.

        • Kuri says:

          So you have the right to my money to pay for your kid to go to school?

        • Jaynor says:

          LOL. Here’s the problem with Healthcare that you’re pointing out, likely inadvertantly, in your question.

          Healthcare has to be approached as either a right or a business. Approaching it as both is incredibly wasteful.

          Today in this country our Healthcare is a business…except that healthcare facilities (trauma centers, ERs) have to accept anyone who walks in… at least to stabilize their condition.

          Imagine being able to walk into McDonald’s and get a hamburger and a small fry without offering payment… and good luck to McDonald’s collecting on your bill. It’s not workable as a business.

          This means that we have to decide on whether Healthcare should be a true business (which means allowing hospitals to let people die on the steps if they can’t pay) or a right (in which case NOT using single-payer is ridiculously innefficient).

          The problem with treating Healthcare as a business is that whole “dying on the steps” thing. Even if you support that approach you wont find enough other voters willing to support that… and you wont find enough congresscritters willing to stick their necks out on that issue to ever get it passed through.

          Since it’s impossible to get Healthcare in the clear as a business (for the reason stated above) it only makes sense to treat it as a right and centralize payment/cost structure. As things stand today you still pay your money to cover other people’s care… just not as a tax (instead you pay for it in passed-along costs for your health services when you use the hospital). It likely would cost you less in a single-payer system since everyone would be paying in regularly… rather than just when you have to use the hospital (some people would never pay in… people who die in horrible accidents where medical care is useless… people who are found dead in their apartment days after a heart attack… people shot in the head by off-season elephant poachers, etc)

          • JennQPublic says:

            Thank you for breaking down how I feel about it so simply. Hope you don’t mind me borrowing some of your points in future conversations. You said it much more eloquently than I have been able to so far.

        • DFManno says:

          I have a right to “your money” for police and fire protection, for national defense, for environmental protection, etc.

          And “your money” already pays for Medicare.

          So what exactly are you bitching about?

        • joako says:

          I would have gladly paid $100 for an IV and $50/hour for someone to attend to me for the 3 hours I was in the emergency room.

        • incident_man says:

          That’s how a civilised society works. We ALL pay for things that help out our society. After all, we’re all in this together.

          If people with your line of thinking ultimately prevail, we won’t have police, fire departments, public roads, schools, local governments, city/county/state parks…..need I go on?

          Not to mention Social Security and Medicare. Lemme ask you a couple of questions: Are you going to give up Social Security and Medicare because it’s borne out of someone paying for someone else’s care? Are you not going to support your local schools, fire department, police, etc by not paying your taxes because you’re paying for someone else’s benefit too?

          Right……I didn’t think so.

        • Dre' says:

          Yes, Virginia, everyone has the right to medical care. You don’t like it? Move your greedy ass to Somalia.

    • tooluser says:

      Yes, and the single payer should be you.

      Serve me, citizen.

    • joako says:

      Some bad food had me throwing up to the point of dehydration. Cure: Mainly an IV to alleviate dehydration rest never hurts, but don’t forget 500 tests to avoid malpractice lawsuits. Cost: Over USD $20,000. Good thing someone forged my signature on the admission papers. I threw up in the ER, I wasn’t that bad but throwing up on the hall on your way to the bathroom helps get faster service. Seriously it does, you should try it — they don’t bill for cleanup, either!

      If I have to do this again I will give a fake name, address and SSN. &(&(#@ this extreme rip off. $20,000 for an IV without medication!!??

    • Anna Kossua says:

      > “it’s positively astounding how many people abuse ERs in this country, and with no intention of paying.”

      People visit the ER because they have nowhere else to go.

      If you earn minimum wage, you can’t afford insurance. Most places that pay so poorly either don’t offer insurance, or charge the employee so much it would take too much of their paycheck.

      If you only work part-time, you can’t afford a regular doctor. The average visit costs $100, and they won’t see you without paying first. Simple tests can push that figure up tenfold. If you only earn $500 a month, it isn’t possible. Purchasing insurance is completely out of the question.

      If you are unemployed, you probably can afford neither insurance, nor a doctor’s visit. If recently unemployed, you may have COBRA coverage and unemployment compensation, so you’re probably OK. But if you’re out longer, it’s comical to think any doctor’s office will see you without paying first.

      Free clinics are rare; every city does not have one. The ones that do are overflowing and you may up sitting in their waiting room all day and never be seen. All day can quickly become all week. Or they may have a complex system, such as signing up in advance, only taking those with children or already receiving social services benefits.

      Even if you’re poor but just maybe could afford your family doctor, you may have an ongoing condition he doesn’t treat. You may be referred to a specialist, one that charges $300 to walk through the door, and one who will require tests.

      People don’t go to the ER for fun, to game the system, or to watch CNN on mute. They go because there is nowhere else.

  2. Herbz says:

    And why don’t we have single-payer again?

    And don’t say “socialism is bad”.

    • OSAM says:

      The US is jealous of Canada (and other countries with social medical systems) and are just too damn stubborn to admit their system is broken?

      • Megladon says:

        The repubs at my work keep saying how the canadians cant get healthcare, how they all want it gone. I keep asking for proof, show me all these people dieing, I keep getting nothing but how socialism is bad, and thats their go to line.

      • JonBoy470 says:

        I’m definitely not jealous of a country where you wait 5 months to get an MRI, and you pay 15% sales tax, on top of your income taxes that are higher than in the US, to cover the cost…

        • Jer in Denver says:

          got proof?

          • doctor_cos wants you to remain calm says:

            Faux News doesn’t need proof for anything, why should we?

          • NorthJersey says:

            I lived there for forty of my fifty years on earth. Yeah, it’s *that* expensive. 13-15% added at the register, booze and smokes are taxed significantly higher and wages are lower because employers have to contribute more to the gov’t. My MRI wait was 7-1/2 months and the average time to see my ear-nose-throat specialist was 4 months. Yes, it was free to the end user but the costs were astronomical to workers. Oh, Tax-Freedom Day is now in late July.

          • chargernj says:

            I don’y know if it’s bad for your health, but it is bad for your intelligence…

            http://publicmind.fdu.edu/2011/knowless/

            Of course, dumber people are more likely to make bad health decisions.

        • Such an Interesting Monster says:

          You should stop watching Fox News. It’s bad for your health.

        • who? says:

          Now for some facts. Average wait times for for most procedures are as high or higher in the US than in any industrialized country except for Canada. The same study I read (one of the Commonwealth Fund studies) said that only 40% of doctors in the US had any kind of after hours arrangements, vs. 75% in the rest of the industrialized world. As a result, 26% of american adults went to the emergency room in the past 2 years, significantly higher than in other countries.

          Canadian income taxes not that different than the US. Sales taxes are somewhat higher. As a point of comparison, I looked at my own income, spending, and tax rates. I would pay more taxes in Canada, but if you subtract out the insane amounts that I pay for health insurance and health care, I’d be doing significantly better living up North.

        • BarbiCat says:

          Aww, it’s adorable when tea baggers try bash Canada by making up random numbers out of the air!

          For what it’s worth, I am VERY happy with the medical care here. I gave birth, in a hospital, no less – twice. And I’m not in debt because of it. [Actually I didn’t pay anything directly out of pocket for it, even with a private room.] I took an entire YEAR off for my maternity leave. With BOTH children. My kids have a paediatrician that I can take them to without worrying about it bankrupting us. My grandfather, who recently passed from liver cancer, received all his outpatient treatment in his own apartment because Cancer Care sent him a nurse/aide and covered things like Boost for meal replacements, bed pads, etc.

          No, it’s not perfect, in fact it’s far from it. But it terrifies me to think of being a parent in the US, with no insurance, and no option for reasonable wait times at walk in clinics, and I will GLADLY pay more so that other people in my province can see a doctor when they need it. And you know what? I don’t even fucking worry, not for a second, that someone else is “abusing” it.

        • Browsing says:

          I moved to one of those “crazy” countries that provides health care to its’ citizens/residents. Guess what? After factoring how much I was paying for health care in the US, it’s a whole lot cheaper even with one of the highest “tax rates” in the world. I haven’t had to wait long to see a doctor and I’m not scared to go bankrupt because I’m sick. No it’s not perfect but it’s a whole lot better than living in fear of getting sick. Even my primary doctor in the US used to say I wish we would switch to a single payer system. The system is broke, it needs to be fixed cause people don’t know when they’ll need it.

          • BurtReynolds says:

            Shhh….

            These people here need you to stop telling stories about single-payer systems working better than the “American” system. Don’t you know that single-payer results in people dying in waiting rooms due to lack of doctors, death panels, and rationed health care? None of which happen in the US* .
            (*If you have enough money to buy your way through the system.)

            • Branden says:

              i am canadian.
              the only instance of someone dying in a waiting room i’m aware of was not due to waiting for hours on end but rather he died shortly after walking thru the doors (he was as good as dead already, it’s just he managed to make it as far as the hospital. now if he died 30 steps earlier on the street… has a different connotation, doesn’t it?). the fact is in waiting rooms you’re seen in order of importance, if you’ve had a heart attack you’re seen immediately. it’s the wimps coming in with bruises that end up waiting hours because they’re constantly being pushed to the back of the line behind more important injuries.
              i don’t know where you americans got this idea that up here in canada (and other nations with universal health care) we have “death panels”. i’d never heard the term until it popped up on the daily show. the closest thing to a “death panel” is that the government has it’s price limits too and might not cover your medication/treatment if it’s going to cost $500,000 per month (in which case you’re screwed anyways – not like private health care is gonna be any better).
              and i’m not sure what you even mean by rationed health care so i guess i can’t dispute that (though the mere fact i’m not sure what it is suggests it doesn’t happen).

              the fact is in canada we live healthier and longer lives, all while spending much less per capita on health care. the difference being i pay for mine through taxes and you pay for yours yourself, and more for it.

              you know how much it cost my wife and i to give birth to our daughter? $57. for parking.
              you know how much our american friends paid to give birth to theirs? $20,000. they say they can’t afford to have more.

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      Socialism and capitalism and democracy are not mutual exclusive terms. A lot of people forget that. Even though countries exist with these exact models.

    • Maz says:

      Because if we didn’t invent it first, it’s bad?

      I really do swear, half the reason the hoi polloi are against single-payer is because it’s an admission that another country is somehow superior to us and we can’t have that.

    • Robert Nagel says:

      We have a single organization for sending letters. How is that working out?
      We have a, mostly, single system of primary education. How is that working out?
      We have single party rule in most of the big cities. How is that working out?
      If we have a single payer system,financed and regulated by our politicians, you can be sure that whatever care you get, they will get better. Providers will get compensated not by their skill and need, but by their political power. When the government gets a hold of that honeypot of money it will make the mortgage fiasco look like a lemonade stand going broke.
      If you don’t believe me look to the care Gaby Giffords got after being shot. On top of the best care they flew in a specialist, cancelling all his appointments one would assume, to check her out. Do you think they would do this for you or me? She is probably a very nice person, but there are limits to the level of attention which can be applied. When she needed physical therapy the flew here to Houston for the best and so she would be near her husband. Do you think they would spend many thousands of dollars to air ambulance you or I.
      Our system of capitalism may not spread wealth equally, but it is pretty good at spreading it around according to effort.
      That is the problem with single payer.

      • Such an Interesting Monster says:

        And what would be the alternative to public schools and post office? Do you really believe that UPS or FedEx, at 2-3x the price, would yield superior service in delivering your letters, bills, magazines, and other mail? Do you believe your children would get a significantly better education from a school that costs more per year than many people earn?

        The idea that more expensive = better service is a fallacy, and we have dozens, if not hundreds of examples every single day how this is sheer nonsense.

        So while the public school system is flawed, it’s functional, and most of the time offers up an adequate education for a low cost. The same holds true of the postal service. And the same would hold true of a single payer healthcare system. The goal isn’t to create a perfect system — the goal is to have a better system than what’s currently available, which pretty much everyone outside of insurance company CEOs agrees is horribly broken.

        The kicker is that a single payer system would not stop people from buying health insurance on their own if they were unhappy with the public option. More choices = increased competition and better service. More choices = everyone wins.

      • ARP says:

        The post office is doing really well, if a certain political party didn’t set them up to fail by requiring crazy pension funding, refusing them to allow them to control their prices or pick which offices to close, etc.

        We don’t have a single primary system of education. Comparatively speaking the state and local districts exert a significant amount of control. On the whole, our public schools are doing well. In some of the poorer areas, they have some issues.

      • incident_man says:

        I’m willing to give single-payer, not-for-profit healthcare a try; it couldn’t be any worse than what we already have. Besides, according to a recent World Health Organisation study, 85.6% of people who live in countries with single-payer are satisfied with the care they get. The same study found that, when US insurance company denials are taken into account and citizens’ inability to pay for care, there is more health care “rationing” with the US system than with single-payer systems. We in the US also pay, per capita, about 3 times the average single-payer country does for health care.

        Another interesting sidenote: the average wait time for care is roughly the same for single-payer as it is for the US system.

    • huadpe says:

      Because doctors are an incredibly powerful lobby. Doctors in the US make a huge amount of money compared to those in almost all other countries, and they want to keep it that way. Government in US (all levels combined) spends about as much per capita as government in Canada (all levels combined) on healthcare. We just spend a ton more privately as well.

      We could copy Canada’s healthcare system at not too much added government expense, but it would mean about halving the income of most doctors in the US, not to mention RNs, pharmaceutical company employees, and medical device makers (who are some of the biggest manufacturers in the US).

      • the Persistent Sound of Sensationalism says:

        You are very wrong. When you take into account malpractice insurance and the cost of medical school, they’re not all driving Beamers and Mercedes. Those who make too much are plastic surgeons. I worked in health care for 6 years as a lowly peon, but had some pretty honest discussions with veteran doctors (more than 20 years in the profession) and not one liked the current state of health care; having to constantly fight with insurance companies just to provide the best course of action for the patient, or having to deal with the enormous amount of paperwork for normal insurance, medicare or medicaid. In a hospital, you spend maybe 15 minutes a day with a doctor and he’s assessing your situation. He has other patients to see, many other patients, but he still might see 15-20 patients with equally short visits. The rest of the time is spent writing your orders, then your report, then the additional paperwork.

        A nurse (RN or LPN) passes pills, changes wound dressings, administers other treatments and fills out additional paperwork (and LPNs are being phased out and RN programs will soon be required to be 4 year degrees). Then the lowly Nursing Assistant (CNA), washes your dirty ass, takes you to the bathroom, does passive and active ROM exercises, and serves your food (and feeds you if necessary).

        PT and OT used to only need a bachelor’s degree, but now they require a master’s for that as well. But guess what, no non-profit can afford a PT/OT department filled with people of that level of education. This causes those organizations to outsource. You know what happens when the services your organization provides are provided by multiple companies? Communication breaks down, quality of service drops, accountability flies out the window and bad shit happens.

        If you think the health care system is the way it is because doctors are greedy, you need to wake up. You’re dead. fucking. wrong. Our system exists the way it does because it serves the insurance companies and pharmaceutical companies. THOSE are the powerful lobbies that keep this system in place.

      • 2 Replies says:

        Doctors would get paid REGARDLESS of who is doing the paying.

      • Kuri says:

        Good, if it meant the ones who left would be those solely in it for the money.

      • pythonspam says:

        Doctors do deserve to make more than the average person. They went to school, worked hard, got into medical school, did that for a long time (usually taking on a lot of personal loan debt), and did their residence (usually long hours at low pay.)
        Maybe we should subsidize their education with the condition that they have to work at public hospitals for a certain term after school and provide some loan forgiveness.

    • mopman64 says:

      To all the wish we had a sinles payer system. I know you will blow this off but my brother in law is from the UK. He did not have good things to say about their health care oh and his teeth were just gross.

      • LadyTL says:

        If he let his teeth get gross I would say he doesn’t have good things to say because he is not using it properly.

        • penuspenuspenus says:

          Who says dental is covered in Europe? Because talking to friends of mine in England and Holland, going to the dentist is all out of pocket. Makes sense considering how bad their teeth were. I figured they were covered too but it is simply not the case.

          • penuspenuspenus says:

            I apologize for double+ posting lately. There seems to be a bug with using a phone browser and posting here. Long delay after submitting a post then goes to an error screen. I tend to just shut off the screen due to the long wait and when I go to look at my phone I believe it refreshes automatically if I go to the browser.

        • penuspenuspenus says:

          Who says dental is covered in Europe? Because talking to friends of mine in England and Holland, going to the dentist is all out of pocket. Makes sense considering how bad their teeth were. I figured they were covered too but it is simply not the case.

          • penuspenuspenus says:

            To add, you do get dental until you are 18. After that, you are on your own. I was whining about the costs of my recent dental nightmares (no insurance, haven’t been in ages) until I was informed how the system works in the UK and NL. Felt a little better after that.

            • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

              Dental isn’t really covered in the US either. Dental/vision are usually the first things cut by employers and unless premiums are subsidized, it’s generally a very poor value (ie, pay $600/year for a maximum benefit of $1,200).

              I haven’t had dental since around 2002. Just like in Europe, we pay out-of-pocket when we see a dentist.

            • icerabbit says:

              Unless you work for the government or some big nationwide company I doubt people have dental & vision coverage in the US.

              While that was standard in Europe.

              Oh, and in the UK people don’t pay medical bills, NHS pays the providers.

          • icerabbit says:

            Who says it isn’t covered?

            I think you’ve got some wrong information there.

            The exceptions are elective procedures that are not deemed medically necessary.

            When I lived there, you paid the doctor, dentist, eye doctor, hospital etc for services rendered up front or when the bill comes in the mail, then you take that bill to the mutual insurance agency, which will give you a ~90% refund. Maybe more, maybe less, depending on your plan etc.

            I know in the Netherlands they’ve got some pretty darn good healthcare coverage and benefits that are better than in some other EU countries.

            Some people do take out additional hospitalization and illness insurance, so that for instance they can stay in a single room vs a room for 2 or 4 patients; or get 100% coverage.

            • penuspenuspenus says:

              http://www.expatica.com/nl/health_fitness/healthcare/Dental-care-in-the-Netherlands-_16161.html
              “Dentistry is privatised in the Netherlands, meaning that you are responsible for paying for the related costs and not your insurance company. However, if you are covered by a Dutch basic health insurance policy, your insurance company will bear the costs of all dentistry for your children up to the age of 18 as well as dental surgery for all adults.

              All other dental care (the majority of the care you receive!) can only be insured by taking out an additional insurance.”

              Talking with my friend right now, the insurance rules seem to change as often as the wind blows. I know it’s not the best source, but he just paid out of pocket 3K euro to have a bridge put in. Cost me $3K USD as well to do it here.

      • RvLeshrac says:

        That’s odd, there are plenty of people in the UK who have perfectly fine teeth.

        Also note that “perfectly fine” is not the horrific day-glo-white bullshit we insist upon here in the US.

      • icerabbit says:

        That is one person’s opinion, countered by millions of people across Europe who have absolutely zero stress about health coverage, no care denied, no pre-existing conditions, no billion dollar insurance profits, no thousands of n million dollar health insurance executives,

        People have access to a neighborhood physician, who will even come to your house if you are too ill to go over. People don’t get billed $5k just to set foot in the ER and get a few tests done … and most importantly don’t go bankrupt, lose their homes, etc because they can’t pay their health care bills.

    • soj4life says:

      If we have a single payer system, won’t anyone think of the debt collectors?

  3. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    This violates so many laws.

  4. Warren - aka The Piddler on the Roof says:

    Can we please round up these cockroaches and turn them into Soylent Green?

  5. FacebookAppMaker says:

    This is nothing. The minister of veteran affairs here in Canada PUBLISHED medical files on a veteran in order to shut him up about criticizing the lack of support veterans get here in Canukistan.

  6. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    The hospital and debt collection agency better be charged with malice, increasing the damages, because this so blantently violates HIPAA laws.

    A debt collector needs to know you owe company X a debt, it does not need to know what medical procedures were performed or other medical details. That is confidential information, distributed on a need-to-know basis only.

    • oldwiz65 says:

      This really could be a criminal issue – you refuse treatment in a life-threatening situation until money is paid upfront.

    • Nogard13 says:

      Exactly! Doctors and nurses that are not assigned to you cannot look at your file, even if they work in the same hospital where you are being treated, because of HIPPA, but these clowns have access?

    • Dr.Wang says:

      While I agree that this is a horrible act… I would suggest that if the hospital put in their “consent to treat” form the wording granting permission to do just this, then it would not be illegal. My guess is the patient signed authorizing this to take place.

      I would also suspect these are private, for-profit hospitals.

      • Dr.Wang says:

        Sorry. I just checked, Fairview Health is non-profit. So the collection action should be listed in the consent to treat documents the patient signed. The loss of portable computer(s) is the reason for the breach of privacy lawsuits.

      • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

        Patients can waive their privacy, but I think it would still be something the AG would sue over. Adding legalese waiving your right to privacy is really the same situation they have right now = feeling pressured to give away your rights in order to get needed medical treatment. I think it would still be found illegal, just a different law violation.

  7. Snoofin says:

    If they are doing this to sick people who need treatment for a medical condition that is hprrendous and they should be hung.

    But I have no problems with them doing it to people who are there for elective treatments or surgery that serves no purpose other than vanity. If you owe money from a previous visit and havent payed it and you are there simply because you’re vain and want that facelift/nosejob/breast or penile implant/hair transplant/liposuction/tattoo removal etc….

    • Coles_Law says:

      True, but they specifically mentioned ER. I can’t think of any elective ER visits.

      • Coleoptera Girl says:

        Maybe something elective after an ER visit? That’s what I read it as being, anyway. It makes more sense.

    • J-Mac says:

      What are you talking about? Who even mentioned those types of medical procedures? Are you just looking for a reason to spout?

      I can see that many posters here talking such nonsense are very young and still feel somewhat immortal. Pray the day doesn’t come that you need emergency treatment and don’t have the cash or insurance.

      Jim

    • ARP says:

      Elective surgery does not happen in an ER. You can’t go to an ER to get a tattoo removed.

    • Dre' says:

      Never been in an ER before have you genius?

  8. Miss Dev (The Beer Sherpa) says:

    This happened to me two years ago. I was in the ER with a pulmonary embolism, which is intensely painful and makes it nearly impossible to breathe. While I was in my room waiting for the cardiologist to come see me (they thought it might be a heart attack at first), a woman came in with paperwork and forced me to sign and give her my credit card for $100. I was so out of it that I had no idea what I signed and was scared that they wouldn’t treat me if I said no. I contacted the hospital and my insurance company later and was told that I would have been charged the $100 “copay” later had I refused.

    It’s really scary to think what I could have signed. Luckily, had it come down to it, I was not coherant enough to have anything be legally binding, and my records reflected that.

    So shady.

    • Me - now with more humidity says:

      And as soon as they give you pain meds, you’re warned not sign any legal documents. WTF?

      • Baron Von Crogs says:

        Yeah, the only person who should be looking at those would be someone who has power of attorney over the patient (right?)

      • Miss Dev (The Beer Sherpa) says:

        I hadn’t even had the pain meds yet (as they didn’t know what was wrong with me at the time). I was literally gasping for air and crying and this woman was shoving a clipboard in my face and demanding payment.

    • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

      It was essentially the same thing when our youngest was born. In addition to putting down a deposit for delivery and prepaying the OB, the hospital still required us to swipe a credit card to ensure payment.

    • repeater says:

      I had this happen during my last ER visit as well. They were very pushy about collecting the copay RIGHT NOW even though I was sitting there in a gown with someone trying to draw my blood. I eventually relented and fished my wallet out of my pants so they could swipe my card.

      I had the money, it just seemed like the stupidest time to do it. Why not during the hour I was just sitting there in the waiting room? Why not hand me a bill on my way out the door and encourage me to take care of it with the receptionist on the way out?

      And then after that I found out that the person who hounded me for payment in the ER had typo’d my payment info, and so their system was showing that I both still owed it and already paid it at the same time. That began a month of insane back and forth conversations with their billing dept:

      “Sir, we can see you paid it already, but there is a typo in our system. No, you can’t do anything about it because you don’t work here. But if you don’t do anything about it, we will send it to collections.”

      and

      “No you can’t send us another $XXX, because we will just send it back since you don’t actually owe us anything. But if you don’t send it, we will send you to collections.”

      and

      “Yes, we are holding the original copies of your paperwork in our hands, but you need to fax us your copies or we can’t fix the glitch. Oh, you faxed them three times already? Well we need them a fourth time.”

      Over and over all the way up the management chain of that department.

      Until I finally called one day and got a guy I had never talked to before, who took one look at all the notes in my file and just dropped in to normal human being mode and said:

      “Wow, what is wrong with all my coworkers? Why have they been putting you through this all month? It’s obvious there is just a typo in our system and you paid months ago. There, fixed the typo, that should have taken two seconds the very first time we called.”

      From his frustrated tone of voice, it sounds like he cleans up a lot of these messes.

      (Sorry for the long random rant here, I didn’t know I had all that pent up venting in me)

  9. bsh0544 says:

    This has to be illegal on so many levels.

  10. SteveHolt says:

    This is disgusting. Debt collectors come in AFTER you already owe a debt, and AFTER you have neglected to pay it. If youre in the ER and you haven’t been treated YOU DO NOT HAVE A DEBT. Fuck.

    I don’t know if I believe in hell, but whoever instituted this will surely be getting a stern talking-to after they die.

  11. oldwiz65 says:

    And just imagine the lawsuit if someone dies because he debt collectors refuse to let the doctors take emergency measures! The hospital and the debt collectors would get sued and the amounts could be huge.

    The debt collectors don’t care if patients die anyway, but they should – if the patients die, it will be hard to collect any money at all.

    It’s kind of scary that hospitals would agree to these measures; have hospitals decided it’s more important to collect money than to care for people?

    • Greggen says:

      And just imaging the trolls on this board attacking the ‘deadbeat’ who was trying to game the system and get free healthcare..

  12. Me - now with more humidity says:

    Baptist Hospitals here in North Florida have someone wandering the ER with a credit card processor to get co-pays. Not even to do collections. I was in agony with a kidney stone when of them came in and asked me to take care of my co-pay. In my Demerol-induced cloud, I told her in very explicit terms what she could do with her co-pay request. She scampered out of the room with her tail between her legs. The nurse apologized — said they hate it, too.

    • jesusofcool says:

      All of these stories are clear examples of why the system is broken and neither side can deny it no matter what their preferred solution.
      Personally I think its unacceptable that many of these medical institutions that care more about financials than caring for patients are non-profits that do not pay taxes. If you’re a non-profit your number one priority should be your mission to care for patients. End of story. In situations beyond routine visits, payment shouldn’t enter the equation until the patient is cared for.
      It truly scares me that there are people in this country that are so desperate for an income that they are willing to work for a collections agency that threatens sick people in their hospital rooms. I don’t care how down on my luck I am, I could never separate myself from the moral implications of what I’m doing in that way. The lack of empathy in this country is really frightening – why is our culture failing to value it?

      • incident_man says:

        Money, and/or the lack of it, tends to make people do what they wouldn’t normally do. I see it every day.

        It’s so very sad that in this day, morals and economics are at the opposite ends of the spectrum.

    • pgr says:

      Key word here “Baptist”. Religion (especially this one) has NO place in hospital management!

      • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

        Many areas would have no hospitals if it weren’t for religiously affiliated ones. Poor areas typically don’t have the tax base for public hospitals and aren’t profitable enough for for-profit ones.

      • RecordStoreToughGuy_RidesTheWarpOfSpaceIntoTheWombOfNight says:

        The Knights Hospitallers would like a word with you…

  13. Chuck U Farley says:

    look in to companies that claim to come in and improve hospital / patient interaction. Keywords are code words. Pre-Cash Payments & reducing bad debt.

    http://www.medeanalytics.com/pai

  14. kimmie says:

    I went to the ER (Good Samaritan in the Bay Area) for a broken wrist after a bad fall – they gave me a bed, and then sent the billing person over.

    I had to give them a cc and authorize payment (that is, my $100 copay after insurance) before they’d treat me. The best part was trying to sign the cc thing with my writing wrist all busted up. It was a very strange experience for me.

    • Me - now with more humidity says:

      They can ask… but you don;t have to pay They must treat you.

      • kimmie says:

        Ah, then they say it to scare you. I didn’t exactly press the issue, but it was suuuper weird.

      • speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

        I almost got kicked out of the hospital on the morning of my surgery for a life-threatening condition because as soon as I showed up they demanded 600 dollars they had never told me about. I didn’t have 600 dollars because I had been drained dry with their pre-pay demands already. I would probably be dead today if I didn’t finally (after three hours and delaying the surgery) find an acquaintance who trusted me with a loan.

      • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

        “They must treat you”

        They must stabilize you and that’s about it.

    • oldwiz65 says:

      Just shows how little hospitals care for the health of patients; profits rule.

      • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

        Is it profits or just staying afloat? In the vast majority of hospitals, ERs are a huge money drain — That’s why they’re being shut down left and right.

        I think the aggressive collection efforts is a symptom of a very broken system.

  15. nikalseyn says:

    The flood of illegal aliens has caused massive expenditures at hospitals throughout the country with some hospitals having to close their emergency rooms or go out of business. The illegals use the ER for everyday medical care and then do not pay their bills. I have absolutely no problem with hospitals demanding either insurance verification or advance payment. Why should responsible citizens pick up the tab for irresponsible people? Or, worse yet, for people in this country illegally?? Enough is enough.

    • Tim says:

      Uh … what? Do you have any evidence that illegal aliens are causing this problem? And if it’s such a big problem, how do you know that everyone who does it is an illegal alien?

      • J-Mac says:

        He doesn‚Äôt. No backup for his data – he’s just talking because he can. Seeing a lot of that here anymore.

        Jim

      • Velvet Jones says:

        Actually, there is plenty of evidence. California’s state health system and several LA area hospitals have directly blamed the hordes of illegals flooding ERs as a major cause of their financial distress. Let me guess though, you’ll discount this as your a bleeding heart who wants billions of poor souls to come here.

    • maratama says:

      If this was policy at my hospital, I would be dead. I am a severe asthmatic who has been uninsured for many years. Around twice a year I have to go to the hospital, many times with no way to pay it After 23 years my hospital knows this, gets me breathing as cheaply as possible and sends me home and sometimes helps with the bill. When I go in and can’t breathe, taking up precious time harassing me about money is life threatening. This is a back door way to letting the poor die….and scary

  16. BradenR says:

    This seems a nice combination with the new debtor prisons for non payment of even medical care. They can’t put you in jail for non payment to the company but by getting a writ from local courts demanding payment, you are in contempt of court for non payment, so off to jail you go.

    • oldwiz65 says:

      It’s considered an acceptable practice for debt collectors to file a lawsuit, then gutter the court notice, then you don’t appear since you were never notified, the judge issues an order for your arrest for failure to appear, the cops arrest you, you go to jail, then you find out that your bail has been set at exactly the amount the debt collector swears you owe, you pay the bail, and the judge gives your “bail” money directly to the debt collector and you are then free to go, plus you have now have a record in the justice system. Also knowing that it would cost you a heck of a lot of money to fight the so-called debt, it’s easier to simply accept the unlawful arrest and forget about it. I’m pretty sure the judges get a cut from the debt collectors; like so many people in public office they find it’s acceptable to take whatever money is offered.

      One would think this is unconstitutional, but in many states it is considered acceptable practice. Debt collectors are well trained in working the system to their advantage; they will stoop at nothing. So far they have not been able to kidnap children and refuse to return them until your debt is paid, but that might start happening if they can bribe enough judges and district attorneys.

  17. ganon446 says:

    ……….These hospital employees who allowed this (Meaning Upper Management), employees of the collection agency should be arrested and sued. If someone died which could have happened this should be murder.

  18. g051051 says:

    That happened to me in an emergency room in Georgia. I had cut my fingers on some broken glass (both hands) and while I was waiting in one of the exam rooms literally holding the cuts closed with both hands, some woman came in to deal with payment. She wanted a credit card, and refused to acknowledge that I had cut fingers and couldn’t reach my wallet. she then mentioned that I could pay by check if that was more convenient! As if I could fill out a check with my hands all ripped up.

    • kimmie says:

      I just replied with a similar story. I was waiting to get a cast on my wrist of my primary hand and I was all shaken up when they had me give them my cc. I know it’s technically in their best interest, but it was a real lousy experience.

    • BurtReynolds says:

      I don’t know. Handing over a bloody check for their files would have a nice effect.

    • Eliamias says:

      I would have freaked her out asking her if she had gloves and if she’s had all her shots and does she know about all of the horrible blood-borne infections out there? Preferably while waving my hands around causing a bit of blood splatter.

  19. Velvet Jones says:

    Something is seriously wrong in the state of Minnesota. This is also the state where local judges have a habit of having debtor arrested and then setting the bail at the exact amount owed to the debt collector.

  20. lovemypets00 - You'll need to forgive me, my social filter has cracked. says:

    We have a hospital in our area that’s for profit, and they have their hand out in the ER check in area for any co pays you may owe depending on your insurance. And this is with a valid insurance card in hand, which they go online somehow and check to make sure the insurance is actually in force before you even leave the waiting area to see a doctor. I have no idea what they do if you don’t have insurance, or heaven forbid, you were in an accident while swimming or something and don’t have your purse or wallet with you.

    • tooluser says:

      Your fault for getting hurt.

      Just as obese people are responsible for their own ills.
      Just as smokers are responsible for their own ills.
      Just as meat eaters are responsible for their own ills.
      Just as athletes are responsible for their own sports-induced ills.
      Just as everyone is responsible for their own ills.

      There is always something you could have to done to prevent it.
      Suck it up and do your job as a human being.

      • ARP says:

        That’s right. If you’re in a car accident that’s the other driver’s fault, its still your fault and you should pay for your ER care….even though it’s not your fault. If someone hits or shoots you, it’s your fault and you should pay for your ER care…even though it’s not your fault.

        Wait, what?

        • HomerSimpson says:

          Well actually it IS your fault (partially). If you hadn’t been there, none of that would’ve happened.

      • Coleoptera Girl says:

        I think you forgot your sarcasm tag!

      • frankrizzo:You're locked up in here with me. says:

        Just as children born with spina bifida are responsible for their ills.

        Moron.

      • Nobby says:

        It sort of makes sense if you don’t think about it.

    • TheMansfieldMauler says:

      I have no idea what they do if you don’t have insurance, or heaven forbid, you were in an accident while swimming or something and don’t have your purse or wallet with you.

      You just say, “No hablo ingles”.

  21. ChilisServer says:

    Wondering how that would work out for someone who was a victim of ID theft in which case the thief fraudulently used that person’s medical insurance. That person isn’t liable for those charges, but in a moment of need they could be turned away for “owing” the hospital money for treatment someone else fraudulently received? I believe everyone has a right to medical care and the sad fact is, a vast majority of people can’t pay for the exorbitant prices of medical care. Does that mean they don’t deserve treatment and good health?

  22. maxamus2 says:

    So a for profit hospital system is requiring a form of payment? What am I missing?

  23. ITDEFX says:

    Something similar happened when my gf had breathing problems and we took her to the hospital. While she was waiting to be seen by the doctor and laying down on the bed, some dude came in rolling a cart with a laptop and getting her medical information and asking to pay the 100 co-pay on the spot. I was like “Can’t you wait til after you guys treat her!??!?!” and he backed off for a bit. I really wanted to nail the guy. Yes she was insured but she isn’t going anywhere!

    • thomwithanh says:

      That’s actually how some hospitals take down routine insurance information – they aren’t bill collectors, just the hospital’s billing department.

      The hospital I’ve used in the past does it in the waiting room for lower priority (i.e. not immediately life threatening) cases, and will do it bedside for higher priority cases (the goal being get them in a room and do it while they’re waiting to be seen). Some do it bedside for all patients, regardless of priority.

  24. mannequin says:

    This sort of happened to me. I went to the ER last year with some intense abdominal pain (acute appendicitis) and was pressured to pay my $100 co-pay before they would do anything. This was an Integris hospital. I have pretty good insurance and understood I had the co-pay, but it certainly felt tacky and was not in the spirit of nurturing or care that one hopes for.

  25. eldergias says:

    I may be wrong, but I think people may have taken this article the wrong way. I read it as: they harass people who have previous unpaid medical bills before they are allowed any new medical treatment. That doesn’t really seem wrong to me.

    Everyone else is reading it as: they harass people for the payments for the treatments they are about to have.

    Did I read it wrong?

    • HogwartsProfessor says:

      If they’re “indistinguishable from medical staff members” then this is not okay. One of the large hospitals here got in big trouble for allowing its own employees to pose as a bogus, separate collection agency. I can’t imagine why anyone would think it’s okay for them to pose as staff and harass people who are ill.

      Also, many ERs by law can’t turn you away if you can’t pay. Suppose they are responsible for scaring someone away from treatment, and they die. Suppose also that it’s not the person they actually have on file, or the debt isn’t even real. Debt collectors are well known for harassing people over bogus debts. Let them kill someone and watch the fur fly.

      I owe the hospital money (although I’m paying it off). If I am sick or hurt I’m usually crabby, so if I had to go in to the ER and someone tried this shit with me, they’d get a shitload of stuff thrown at them and the rough side of my tongue.

  26. Alliance to Restore the Republic of the United States of America says:

    It’s very fortunate for me they didn’t try this in Austin when I’d brought my mother in for massive stroke. I’m not sure I could have controlled myself on that person.

  27. balderdashed says:

    There’s another interesting angle to this travesty: The founder and CEO of the company accused by the Minnesota AG of mercilessly ripping off sick consumers is Mary Tolan — a former director of Best Buy Inc. That’s according to a report in the StarTribune, Best Buy’s hometown paper. We can presume that her training at Best Buy, with its high-pressure pitches for extended warranties, etc. was good preparation for pressuring hospital Emergency Room patients to pay up before seeing a doctor.

  28. Kuri says:

    So, how long before they start sending repo men after transplanted organs?

    • thomwithanh says:

      Or seriously, how long until EMTALA gets repealed and hospitals are no longer required to treat you if you are uninsured and have no demonstrated means of paying?

      • Kuri says:

        Sorry, was just thinking of that movie Repo Men and how insurance companies were likely drooling at the idea.

  29. Harry Greek says:

    Just like there are horror stories on socialized medicine, there are just as many (if not more) on paid healthcare.

  30. u1itn0w2day says:

    Funny how the same medical care industry that has become hooked to a someone else is paying for it(insurance based)after the fact system feels entitled to demand cash off the individual patient for services before they are rendered.

  31. ronbo97 says:

    Folks that engage in these inhuman practices should be tortured mercilessly.

    Hospital administrators that allow these collection agency reps into emergency rooms should meet with the same fate.

  32. buzz86us says:

    forgive me if this sounds dumb but don’t patients have to be alive for the company to collect the debt? if they don’t have the money and they die wouldn’t the company lose money?

  33. crispyduck13 says:

    Special place in hell…

  34. Reppy says:

    Our health “care” system is broken. The “care” is about these businesses (hospitals) making as much profit as the market will allow. Now it’s breaking the back of the people in this country. We pay so much more than people in other countries for our care and for the exact same medicines – and the people from these countries will swear their care is much better because someone actually pays attention to them and to their care, and not just trying to figure out the maximum amount they can charge the patient and get paid for it.

    I used to work for a bankruptcy trustee when I was in college and an enormous percentage of the people there were those whose finances had been wiped out by an illness – many were older people. It was very sad. I have several members of my family who are in the medical industry and they all make an enormous amount of money. I assure you this industry is not hurting that badly.

    I don’t know what the answer is. I know that somehow healthcare should be distinguished from healthbusiness. This story is evidence that care needs to be put back in healthcare.

  35. Nobby says:

    I’m so depressed. It seems like there’s no security, no help, no safety net, no nothing. Just bad news after more bad news.

  36. stanb says:

    LOL- Just wait until Obamacare kicks in and the IRS holds your loved ones from emergency care until you settle your erroneous debt. After dealing with those a-holes over THEIR mistake for almost 18 months, I can only imagine how it will be when you’re having a coronary.

  37. SerenityDan says:

    Seen this in person. I was rushed to the hospital 3 years ago in an ambulance for a possible heart attack and they sat me down at a desk and asked me to pay my ER co-pay before being seen.

  38. trencherman says:

    Several years ago I had a cancerous brain tumor, and I was incapacitated for several months with surgery, radiation, etc. I couldn’t even read or write for a while. I still managed to pay EVERYTHING (obviously a little late) except for the ambulance bill that started the whole thing. The ambulance service sent the bill to a collections agency. I told the collections agency that I would be glad to pay the ambulance service (that probably saved my life), if they’d just send me another bill. This offended the collections agency greatly. I then told the collection agency: my credit is excellent; I already have a house and a car; there is NO WAY IN HELL I will pay a collection agency; and never call me again. They not only never called, but they didn’t even send any mail. I’m still a little pissed off at the ambulance company for not just sending a bill again (and yes, I’m sure they sent several) instead of turning me over to collections.

  39. limbodog says:

    Doesn’t that violate HIPAA? Some collections agency flunky is not a covered entity who has permission to know about your healthcare status. They should only know finance info such as “person X owes $80,000 for a procedure performed on Y date of service.” (HIPAA is really strict about privacy!)

    Letting some non-covered entity into the ER to see patients should result in hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines.

  40. meniscus says:

    The cost of health insurance soared 40 percent last year, and 30 percent the year before. There is only one solution. End health insurance. Make bills and paying illegal. Everybody in, nobody out, pay for it with taxes. Especially the rich, because otherwise, it will become crap-care even worse than we have now.

    Single payer (and throw the politicians and their ERISA Section 514 out) is the only way out of this mess.

    No wonder the news media has a blockade on news about it.