Hospital Sends Debt Collectors After Homeless Man

Phil Hughes is a homeless handy-man who’ll paint your house number on your curb for $5 and some turkey leftovers, says Mary Olsen, a homeowner who hires Hughes for occasional odd jobs.

When Hughes got sick, Mary Olsen told him to put down her name as an emergency contact.

“I didn’t want him to die and not know about it,” she told the Contra-Costa Times. Hughes spent 3 or 4 days in the hospital and the bill came to Mary Olsen’s house. It was for $42,000.

It was pages and pages and pages,” she said. “They detail every shot they give you, every antibiotic, every aspirin.

“Phil and I were laughing about it. Here’s a homeless man who doesn’t have a penny to his name and he has this enormous hospital bill. How’s he going to pay it?”

The humor quickly evaporated when a collection agency began hounding her with phone calls looking for Hughes. The collectors especially liked to call early Saturday mornings.

She told them Hughes did not live there, was homeless and could not afford to pay. Her pleas made no difference: The calls continued daily for a couple of weeks.

Finally, Mary had to threaten the debt collectors with media exposure to get the calls to stop. The hospital can’t discuss Mr. Hughes directly, but told the Contra-Costa Times that John Muir Hospital “seeks reimbursement through a county program for indigent adults. It does not bill patients or put them through collections.”

Mary Olsen says she’s happy with the care that her friend received at the hospital, but is less than thrilled with the debt collectors. “Phil is so obviously an indigent person that no one would expect he would have enough money for lunch,” she said, “let alone a hospital bill.”

Hospital seeks $42,000 — from a homeless man [Contra-Costa Times]
(Photo:Contra-Costa Times)


Edit Your Comment

  1. Phildawg says:

    42,000 lol to an insurance company, the bill would be closer to 10,000 tops. Isn’t it so ridiculous what they try to charge low income people vs. billion dollar health corporations who are driven by greed, not making sure you are well.

  2. Freedomboy says:

    Find a compassionate conservative to help out, didn’t the Prez say we had this great system; just go to the ER and all is daisies and cream??

    Huh? Huh ?

    Didn’t he??

  3. beyond says:

    Sounds like John Muir Hospital spouts lies.

  4. E-Bell says:

    Newsflash: health care costs money.

    Of course they’re going to send a bill, and when it doesn’t get paid, they’re going to send it to collections.

    Why is that so shocking?

  5. warf0x0r says:

    I had an outpatient surger and my HMO showed me what they paid vs what was billed. all in all 6000 wound up being about 3500 instantly.

  6. warf0x0r says:


  7. Hedgy2136 says:

    Debt collectors work on commission. They don’t care about privacy, the Hill-Burton Act, the FDCPA or anything else but collecting the debt.

    Aside from car salesmen, the lowest form of human life that exists. I can’t imagine how hard the dog gets kicked when they get home at the end of the day.

  8. not_seth_brundle says:

    @E-Bell: I think what’s especially shocking, at least to me, is that they turned over his emergency contact to the collections agency.

    For public policy reasons, to encourage people to provide an emergency contact, that name should be kept confidential.

  9. Hedgy2136 says:

    Actually, the F&I guy is lower than the salesman, but still above sleazy debt collectors.

  10. scatyb says:

    I’m tired of the “find a compassionate conservative” crap. Make a relevent post.

    I agree with E-BELL. People need something, there is a cost involved. Those who gave the service are entitled to payment. And who’s going to pay, the government? Only way they can do that is by increasing taxes….for everyone. The honest thing to do would have been for him to not laugh at the bill, but make a good-faith effort to repay.

  11. bellagray says:

    I work for a hospital in the billing department. Each facility is different, but I can say this: If the friend/guarantor (Mary) was being hounded by collections, then the account was already past due. Instead of letting the first couple of statements sit and collect dust, they should have called the billing department and explained the circumstances before it had a chance to age and turn over to a bad debt/collections agency.

    Seriously, health care providers/facilities would rather work with patients (be it long-term payment plans, or even qualifying the patient through a charity program and writing off the bill which gives some providers/facilities a tax credit) than have accounts go to collections.

    But you can’t wait until the bill’s already IN collections. And you can’t expect that the consideration of charity care/indigent care is automatic. All it takes is picking up the phone and talking with someone in the billing department when you get that first statement to put that in motion. If you don’t bother to do that, the account will go to collections.

  12. chrispiss says:

    I know a lot of hospitals will treat people for free if they can’t afford it. This is surprising that they would charge a homeless guy $42,000. Most people with decent jobs probably wouldn’t be able to afford that.

  13. motoraway says:

    @scatyb: Did you bother reading the article? The guy is homeless and paints house numbers on the curb for $5 and “turkey leftovers”. Last time I checked, US hospitals don’t accept leftover food as currency.

  14. Beerad says:

    @E-Bell: As Not_Seth_Brundle points out, I’m pretty shocked that they apparently interpret “emergency contact” as “hound this person about someone else’s medical bills”.

    And it’s painfully obvious there’s a disconnect somewhere in the hospital’s system if they claim that they recoup indigent care costs through other means and then turn Mr. Hughes’ case over to a debt collection agency.

  15. speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

    Other people besides the hospital bill the patient. I had a kidney removed and got billed by the anesthesiologist, the home nurse, and about six other professionals and paraprofessionals in addition to the hospital.

    Now, one thing that surprises me is that they let him in the hospital at all without any sort of up front payment. My hospital would not accept me for my surgery at all if I did not give them 300 dollars up front. I did not have the money at the time and I had to actually call all my friends until someone loaned it to me. He got there with ten minutes to spare before the scheduled surgery time, and we were pleading with the finance gal to put down the phone and not call off the surgery until he arrived.

  16. wring says:

    It has finally come a point when I go to this website to read opinions of trolls who don’t GET THE POINT. A homeless man with a $42k hospital bill. We’re supposed to get mad at the SYSTEM, not at him!

    Sheesh. It’s 9/11 y’alls, NEVER FORGET!

  17. E-Bell says:


    I agree with you there. The collections agent is clearly in the wrong, and the hospital should not have given out Mary’s information.

    But that’s not how the article reads. It reads like it’s just SO outrageous that they’d try to collect the bill from a man who is “obviously” indigent.

    Chances are that they’ll eventually give up and write off the debt (which actually makes health care more expensive for you and me, but that is neither here nor there). But they’re not heartless or evil for sending out a bill.

  18. GreatCaesarsGhost says:

    Let me read that back to you, because you seem to have had your fingers in your ears when you said it.

    The homeless man should make a good faith effort to pay the $42,000 bill.

    Perhaps he can pay in leftover turkey?

  19. bellagray says:

    @chrispiss1186: You’re right, a lot of hospitals will. The thing is, billing departments don’t automatically know who qualifies for free services or bill write-offs. With the amount of accounts that generate daily in a hospital, and with only so many employees working accounts, there’s no way to look at every individual one and call the patient and screen them to see if they meet the guidelines to have their bills written off or reduced through the facility’s charity program(s). It’s up to the patients to call when they get their first billing statement.

  20. Black Bellamy says:

    So much for not waiting until a bill is in collections…

    I had minor surgery earlier this year. One day I receive two letters. One is from the hospital, asking me to pay $250, the balance which my insurance didn’t cover. The other is from the hospital’s collection agency, asking me for $350.

    Both reference the same case number.

    I sent the hospital a check and sent the collection agency a registered letter telling them to fuck off. We’ll see what happens.

  21. Sir Winston Thriller says:

    I thought that all the information on your admittance/intake sheets was covered by HIPAA privacy regulations, and couldn’t be shared with a third-party without express written permission.

    Jeez–when I went to the ER with a sliced up thumb, my civil union partner couldn’t get them to tell him anything because I hadn’t signed a HIPAA waiver while the thumb was leaking.

  22. jwissick says:

    Can you blame them for trying to collect? Hospitals are businesses. SOme are non profit, but still they have bills to pay. Doctors, nurses, overhead, etc. Healthcare is NOT free. On the contrary, it is VERY expensive.

    In my state, more than 100 ERs have closed because of people who do not pay their fucking bills. Not because they can’t pay, but because they WON’T.

    I think this guy should give $5 for every 10th house address he paints for his bill till it is paid off or he dies. It’s a minor amount, but at least he would be paying off his debt.

    If Phil went into a restaurant and had lunch but could not afford his bill, doesn’t he still owe the restaurant?

    There is NO right to health care.

  23. scatyb says:

    Well, fingers in my ears still wouldn’t affect my understanding of the written word.

    Yes, he should try to repay what he can. Maybe he should do more than just spraypaint sidewalks.

    Somehow you think not having money for whatever reason is an excuse not to be held responsible. So he doesn’t have much. He should at least try to work something out.

    Maybe I should give all my money to charity(making me a saint), quite my job, and become homeless. According to your thinking I can then reasonably expect things for free, so long as I don’t ask for much.

  24. SimonSwegles says:

    @bellagray: I saw no indication in the article that the hospital billing department billed the gentleman’s emergency contact prior to the issue going to collections. So there very well may not have been any bills for her to ignore. Isn’t it possible that when the file went to collections the agency saw a potential “responsible” target in the listed emergency contact and decided to take advantage of that information?

    When debts are sold to collections, all information not directly pertinent to the billing should be cut from the file.

  25. jwissick says:

    @GreatCaesarsGhost: Pay in turkey? No. Pay with the $5 from the $50 he just made from painting 10 numbers on houses, yes.

    HE screwed up by ignoring the bill. He should have worked with the billing dept to make some sort of arrangements. Charity, write offs, $5 a day, what ever. HE OWES THEM MONEY. He OWES them an explanation.

  26. hugh_jass says:

    I’m so glad I live in Canada… sure we have to wait 9 months to get surgery but at least it’s free. And hey, if we think we’ll die before the doctor gets to look at us THEN we can head down to the states and hand over the deed to our house along with our first born son.

    Seriously, what did this guy have that costs $42,000… was he in the hospital for a year?

  27. Xkeeper says:

    @scatyb: I hope you end up in a hospital with some outrageous bill, just so I can sit there, laugh, and hope you enjoy having to pay some monster bill for whatever disease or illness you happen to come down with.

  28. Zgeg says:

    Hey Meg, looks like grammer check missed this one :)

    “Finally, Mary had to threated the debt collectors with media exposure to get the calls to stop.”

  29. jwissick says:

    @wring: The people who shirk their bills ARE the problem. Not the system as you put it. How do the people in the billing dept know he is homeless? I doubt that he has even talked to them yet.

    People! I can NOT make this more clear. THERE IS NO RIGHT TO HEALTH CARE! NONE! Just as there is no right to food. There is no right to water. There is no right to a car, etc. If you want something you need to pay or at least attempt to pay for it!!

  30. blue_duck says:

    @Zgeg: Looks like spell check missed this one :)

    grammer= grammar

  31. Freedomboy says:

    So no right to life, good that’s settled. Without that pesky water and food it seems that is where it’s headed. And if THAT is true then why not just shoot folks and steal their food? Unless you are homeless surfing the net in a library then you are able to see a computer which means you got no idea just how poor poor is in the USA day in and day out and thinking that poor slob can hand over his food money to a bill is just silly.

  32. TechnoDestructo says:


    If he had health insurance, perhaps he would have sought treatment before it got to be a 42,000 dollar bill?

    Whether it fits with an Objectivist world view or not, providing preventative care for everyone who can’t pay would save everyone who can money. It’s that or require proof of payment up front for everyone.

    Lose your wallet, ID, and health insurance card? Hahahah, you’re out of luck, buddy! Go bleed to death in the street!

  33. Timbojones says:

    @scatyb: It’s funny how many people so obviously don’t RTFS, let alone RTFM: “John Muir Hospital ‘seeks reimbursement through a county program for indigent adults. It does not bill patients or put them through collections.'”

  34. entitynein says:

    The catch-22 of it all is this: Asprin in a hospital costs $100 per pill, because people don’t pay their bills. People don’t pay their bills, because they can’t afford $100/pill asprin. Rinse, multiply by 10 for something more significant, repeat.

  35. TheName says:

    @SimonSwegles: I’m confused as to what part of “The half-inch-thick packet arrived at her home addressed to Phil Hughes” you didn’t understand.

    Unfortunately, bellagray is about as right as she can be. This is an egregious case but I was a bad luck-ridden student and worked with hospital billing to pay what I could until the accounts were written off as charity cases. I’m sure if Mr. Hughes and Ms. Olsen had contacted the hospital instead of “laughing about it” something could have been worked out. Hell, I’ll bet it could still be dealt with via the hospital’s billing office. When an unnoticed piece of an ER bill went to collections, I was able to come to an agreement with a nice CSR at the hospital to take payment; the collector was refunded along with a receipt and letter saying it was an error.

    But the whole “he should have to pay back every red cent ’cause hospitals need money and/or he doesn’t have a right to expect it to be free” sentiment is just plain bogus. Take that idea to the next logical step, realize we have no “right” to many consumer issues discussed here and find another site to blow your vitriolic smoke.

  36. CumaeanSibyl says:

    The real story here is that the hospital apparently has no idea what its own employees are doing, or whether they should be doing it.

    The spokesman said the hospital “seeks reimbursement through a county program for indigent adults. It does not bill patients or put them through collections.” Okay. Is it crazy of me to think that, if they’re going to do $42K worth of surgery to a guy, they might reasonably be expected to find out where he lives? If they assumed that he lived at the same address as his emergency contact, that was a really stupid mistake. They should have clarified all this before they started cutting on him.

  37. SimonSwegles says:

    @TheName: Color me ‘jackass’. I totally misread that part of the article in my initial scan. Whoops!

  38. TechnoDestructo says:

    @TheName: “I’m sure if Mr. Hughes and Ms. Olsen had contacted the hospital instead of “laughing about it” something could have been worked out. Hell, I’ll bet it could still be dealt with via the hospital’s billing office.”

    The only thing to be “worked out” is for them to stop sending bills, because the bill is not their responsibility.

    (I get a little pissy about stuff like this because 10 months after getting my current cell number I’m STILL getting collection calls for the previous owner.)

  39. BrockBrockman says:

    Yeah, there is no right to free health care. That indigent handy man should have just sucked it up and died in the streets. Maybe he could have infected a few of his friends in the mean time.

    And, there’s no right to free disposal of your dead body, either – so he should have just been left to rot in the gutter.

  40. Sudonum says:

    The people in the billing department might know he’s homeless because of the information he gave them when they admitted him. According to the article this woman gave them her contact information solely as emergency contact.

    I worked in a hospital while going through college, and have had my fair share of ER visits since then. As you may or may not be aware the paperwork that has to be filled out is tremendous. I’m pretty sure that during the 3 days he was in the hospital someone visited him to inquire about insurance coverage and payment. Most hospitals even have an individual dedicated to this. The hospital I worked in called “Utilization Review” so as to put a kindler, gentler face on it.

    Is he responsible for his bills? Absolutely. Did the hospital have knowledge of his inability to pay? Greater than 99% chance. Did they turn it over to collections to see if they could squeeze anything out his emergency contact? Maybe

    As to your statement “You have no right to health care”. Logically you are absolutely correct. However in practice who wants to be the hospital or doctor who refuses to treat someone, only to have it later reported that the person died and you refused to help?

  41. ElizabethD says:

    Are there no workhouses? No? Well, then let them all die and decrease the surplus population.

  42. Phildawg says:

    @scatyb: The best way to make the world’s finest healthcare system is to start denying claims in old age, so old people die sooner and eliminate 25% of the population from participating as they cannot afford insurance.

    This is a great country, and makes me wonder why on September 11th why people don’t care about socialized servies like fire departments and police departments verse healthcare. I would make comparisions to the World Trade Center and who should be billed for all the stuff that happened there, but I just can’t be that sick of an individual. Maybe those who think socialized healthcare is evil, and poor people should just die can explain it for me.

  43. wring says:

    @jwissick: spoken like a true bill collector.

  44. jwissick says:

    @wring: No. Its spoken by a person who takes responsibility for his bills and wants to have an emergency room open when he needs it instead of closed like 100 of them in California over the last 20 years because people just walk away from their responsibilities and screw over the rest of us.

    In San Jose area, ambulances are regularly turned away because the ERs are too full and too many of them have closed because of people not paying their bills. When your spouse is in a car accident, don’t you want to have an ER that they can go to?

  45. cortana says:

    A few years back, I was unemployed and had to go into the hospital for a nasty lung infection… ended up in a coma for nearly 2 months, with a month or so of rehab and other things tacked on at the end of the stay. During that time the hospital towed my car away, while it was legally parked in the hospital parking lot. I ended up having to pay about 800 bucks to get my car back, but the hospital ended up eating my 276,000 bill for care. I think I came out ahead.

  46. Chicago7 says:

    The hospital didn’t send it to the collection agency? Then who did?

    Why did the hospital send the bill to the “Emergency Contact”?

    The whole thing doesn’t add up.

  47. Chicago7 says:


    National Health Care would take care of all your problems. My guess is, you’re against it, though.

  48. Mojosan says:


    Here’s a novel idea:

    I’ll pay for my health care.

    You pay for your health care.

  49. joebloe says:

    They’ll never the send the uncollected billions $$$ to Mexico for treatments for millions of illegal aliens. Why can’t a decent American get a break. Next time just say you’re illegal and “yo quiero Taco Bell” and they won’t come after you.

  50. joebloe says:

    They should send the trillion dollars in updaid bills to the Mexican government for all the treatments rendered to their citizens here. Next time just say you’re illegal and you won’t get the bill. I paid more than $100K in taxes per year and I still have to wait hours and hours in line while the illegals clog up the ER for free treatment.

  51. Chicago7 says:


    And 40 million won’t have health and will be forced to go to the ER for all health care needs, running up the cost to all of us.

    What’s your solution to that? Let them all die? Are you one of those “compassionate conservatives” that were mentioned earlier?

  52. Chicago7 says:

    That should read “won’t have health CARE”. D’oh!

  53. TechnoDestructo says:


    Debt collection costs money. Sending out bills that will obviously never be paid just puts further burden on the health care system.

  54. Nemesis_Enforcer says:

    @joebloe: Amen brother!

  55. Allisonaxe says:

    I’ve had it with abusive hospital debt collectors. last summer i broke my arm, paid on the spot for very shoddy hospital care (they didn’t put me in a room but rather, just left me on a seat in the hall and told me they didn’t have a room, the doctor couldn’t speak English and it wasn’t until i went to another doctor that i even knew what kind of break it was… and then I paid over $500 at the hospital before leaving (no, I’m not insured, my boss was too cheap for that and I didn’t make enough money to afford that, too.)

    so anyway, a few months later I get a bill in the mail demanding $600+ more. i send a letter, demanding to see an itemized list of what the charges entail (a friend told me its a common practice to charge a room fee or a diagnosis fee, which i wanted to protest since I really didn’t get either.) instead, i get a bill back, with the exact same format as the first one. just when i thought i was getting somewhere, the hospital instead sells the debt to a third-party collector….

    got another call from them today, over a year after the actual incident. they’re not getting a single red cent from me, especially seeing as how they don’t have my SSN.

  56. gundark says:


    What is actually shocking is your ignorance ass-hat.

    First, is the system that causes and condones this behavior.
    Second is the collection agencies that think they can break any rule they want just to get paid.
    Third is folks like you that think this behavior is fine that prevent the system (see item 1) from changing.

  57. wring says:

    @jwissick: all those people in the ER are IN the ER cus it’s the ONLY PLACE THEY CAN GO TO. They don’t have health insurance, and when they’re sick, they get worse, and end up in the ER where they won’t be turned away. oh yeah, let’s abolish the ER’s altogether so only the people w/ insurance can get health care.

    See, the System doesn’t work for poor people. It works for you, cus you can afford health insurance. With your logic it seems that people who can’t afford health insurance deserve to die.

    I say, cut the homeless dude some slack, and most hospitals do have programs that write off (eliminate?) most if not all of the debt. And you responsible people can keep paying our super high hospital bills when we end up in the ER.

  58. Beerad says:

    @jwissick: I’m totally with you man. What’s with these poor people claiming “rights” that they can’t even pay for?! It’s like the police – I pay WAY more in taxes because I’m a productive member of society and not some lazy bum, so why are THEY always sucking up MY police resources?? The cops shouldn’t even bother answering a 911 call if someone’s shot in the ghetto! And like those public parks — who do you think pays for those? Not THE POOR! Whenever I see some poor person in the park, I’m all like “Go play in the street – you didn’t pay for this nice green space!”

    Don’t even get me started on those losers who call the fire department because their homes are burning down. Too late, suckers – you just lost all your assets so how are you possibly going to pay for the service to put out the fire?!

    Wow, what a great world without shared public services, huh!

  59. hoot550 says:

    You forgot all those commies over at the library.

  60. HeartBurnKid says:

    @Mojosan: And the indigent guy who works for turkey sandwiches can pay for his health care.

    Oh wait, no he can’t.

    See where that falls apart?

  61. Bobg says:

    My daughter works for a mortgage company. Almost everyone that comes into her office with tarnished credit is because of medical collections.

  62. scatyb says:

    Ok, I think he should be held responsible for the bill. But, if you think he shouldn’t have to pay, then you go ahead and foot the bill. Just don’t expect/force me to pay for it in any aspect because you think it’s right and since I had no part in his becoming homeless/getting hurt/laughing at the bill.

    Hey guys! Let’s all place the blame on someone else! YAY! HOORAY for lack of personal responsibility!

  63. LisaLives says:


  64. jrdnjstn78 says:

    That’s because medical services are so outrageously expensive.

    I was in an auto accident 2 yrs ago with my kids. Both my kids had to be air-lifted to a children’s hospital an hour away, while I went to the local hospital. I get the bill for the “air ambulance” and they charged me 10,000$ for each of my kids! I called them and asked them if my kids shared the helicopter and they said yes. I then asked why they charged $10,000 a piece (I have 2 kids). They said that’s what they have to do but I did get a discount on the charge for the use of oxygen!! They even charged me for the gas too, which was around 56 miles!!!!
    My insurance eventually paid, a year and a half later! I had to fight tooth and nail to get these people to understand the situation. I ended up with over 20 bills from this accident. Even though I had insurance to cover it it was still my bill until they did. They would call me to set up a payment plan but I couldn’t afford it because 20 different people wanted to get paid every month. You say pay $5 bucks a month? No they don’t want that. They laugh at you when you say that’s all you can afford. They tell you to go ask your family members to loan you some money so they can get paid. I did neither. I got fed up with them and told them that if they wanted to send it to collections then go ahead, that I was sure they already had reported it to the credit agency anyways. My insurance finally paid Jan of this year.
    I would have hate to seen my bill if I didn’t have insurance. Insurance companies get an “insurance rate or adjustment on medical bills but if you have no insurance you get charged the full amount. I ended up having about $72,000 in medical bills for me and my kids. I certainly don’t have that kind of money laying around.
    I hate it when I hear of people using the ER for services like a headache or something that is not an emergency. That’s why the ER’s are so backed up and full.

  65. LisaLives says:


  66. LisaLives says:

    “Let all bear in mind that a society is judged not so much by the standards attained by its more affluent and privileged members as by the quality of life which it is able to assure for its weakest members. “

    ~H.E. Javier Perez de Cuellar

  67. jrdnjstn78 says:

    Oh yeah I’m not siding with this guy but they shouldn’t hound this lady about that guy’s bill. I’m sure they figure she knows where he is since he probably didn’t put down a address, phone number, etc.

    We all know that he isn’t going to pay.

  68. killavanilla says:

    Here’s an idea, don’t let a homeless man use you as an emergency contact you nutbag….

  69. Buran says:

    @bellagray: Why should I waste MY time dealing with someone ELSE’S problems?

  70. Buran says:

    @killavanilla: Yup. The blame-the-victim-ing has started.

  71. nctrnlboy says:

    WOW! Arent there consequenses for debt collectors for hounding someone else for another person’s debt?

    A few years ago I started getting harrassing phone calls on my cellphone for someone else’s debt (aparrently someone made up a phone # & put it on an application somewhere & that phone # happened to be to my cellphone). I had POS sleazeballs calling me day & night saying that I was someone else & that I needed to pay up or else. I ended up having to change my phone #.

  72. jwissick says:

    @wring: No. They get sick and don’t go to a primary care dr and wait and wait and wait till it is so bad they have to go to the ER. If treated early it would be $100-200. Now at the ER it is $3000-4000. They of course do not pay it and soon there will be NO ERs because it is too costly to keep them open because no one pays. Come on. Who does not have access to $100-200 bucks to pay a bill? Yer telling me he has no friends or relatives who could not help? BTW, at one time not too long ago , I did not have coverage. I had to go to the Dr. And yes. I paid my bill. If I can do it, others can too. Stop expecting them to not be able to pay. Demand they pay SOMETHING each month. ANYTHING. Don’t tell me that there is no way they can’t pay $5 or 10 a week. Bullshit. They would just rather buy some ripple or smokes than do the right thing and pay the bill. If they cant pay then ask them to come in and mop floors or bus tables or do dishes in the hospital a few hours a week.

    @Chicago7: Damn right I am against it. Canadians have to wait 9-12 months for surgery. Name ONE thing the government does well. JUST ONE! Now you actually believe that OUR federal gov can administer health care better than industry??? BTW, I have some Utah ocean front property for sale if you believe that.

    @Beerad: Hospitals are not a shared public service. They are privately owned in most cases. They are businesses. They are there to make money and expand and do right by their investors. They have a right to expect payment for services rendered. BTW, in some areas, if you start the fire, YOU get the bill for the FD fighting it.

  73. Chicago7 says:


    So, this guy should just go off in a corner and die?


  74. Chicago7 says:


    Who sends a bill to an emergency contact?

  75. Chicago7 says:


    For NON-CRITICAL surgery, they have to wait UP TO 12 months. Everybody is getting the health care they need, if you talk to ACTUAL CANADIANS, rather than listening to Rush Limbaugh talk about what’s happening in Canada.

  76. LAGirl says:


    the hospital said it “seeks reimbursement through a county program for indigent adults. It does not bill patients or put them through collections.”

    even by their own admission, the hospital should NOT have sent his bill to collections. unless they’re just lying to save face.

  77. Sudonum says:

    Yeah, you’re right, what can the government do right? These are the same people running the military, and we all know how well that’s going.

  78. silenuswise says:

    @jwissick: “THERE IS NO RIGHT TO HEALTH CARE! NONE! Just as there is no right to food. There is no right to water. There is no right to a car…”

    Can we add “air” to that list? And then cut his off? Also: CAPS usage. Definitely has lost that privilege.

  79. it5five says:

    I hate this country.

    I’m taking a massive amount of summer classes and loaded semesters just so I can get my B.A. sooner and get the hell out of this backwards country.


    AGH! Will Americans ever learn?

  80. killavanilla says:

    No. You are right. The ‘victim’ didn’t do anything to put themselves in this position. They just told a homeless man that they know very little about that it was okay to use their name, address and phone number for emergency contact information.
    Totally reasonable behavior.
    I used to know this homeless guy who hung around the area my bar was in. I’d pay him $20 from time to time to do odd jobs like clean garbage cans, sweep up the back alley – menial stuff.
    I’d buy him sandwiches all the time and have the cooks prep me some food to give him at the end of the night. He was a nice guy. Just lost, you know?
    One night, I stepped out to talk to him and tell him I had some grub for him. When I came back in, a regular who was a cop (many of my regulars were – I was two blocks from a police station) asked me if that guy was giving me problems. I told him no and that he was basically okay.
    He then told me that the week prior, they found him crying and naked sitting on the street at 4 in the morning. when they approached him, they saw why he was crying. He had stuffed a dead rat in his keester while pleasuring himself and couldn’t get it out.
    My point is – YOU DON’T KNOW THESE PEOPLE.
    Hell, I’d bet there are people you’ve known for 20 years that could tell you things about themselves that would absolutely freak you out.
    So yeah, in a way (actually in everyway) this IS the ‘victims’ fault.
    Had they not given their info and not volunteered to give info that was completely unneccessary, they would never have been in this mess.

  81. killavanilla says:

    A dumb hospital that farms out their past due bills to bill collectors.
    The bill collector tries to find ANYONE who will pay.
    It’s shady, no doubt, but why allow someone to use you as a reference if you don’t want to be involved?

  82. cabedrgn says:

    While in a way I agree, the ‘healthcare is not a right’ crowed seems to miss an important point. While I don’t like paying addt’l in taxes for healthcare for the ‘lazy’ people (not talking about people trying to earn a living, just people milking the healthcare system), I don’t mind paying to keep myself safe.

    Example (far fetched as it is), I live in Orlando and a lot of homeless people live down town. Homeless guy contracts Tuberculosis or some other infectious disease. Doesn’t get medical attention, walks by you and sneezes and you catch TB (yes, it canbe transmitted this way). You find out somehow (doctor, divine moment, etc.) that you got TB from the homeless guy. Do you think “well, healthcare is not a right, its what happens” and live with it or do you think “why the hell didn’t this guy get treatment?” Yes, I know TB isn’t curable but you get the idea.

    Tax supported healthcare for people who cannot afford to do so helps more (in a lot of cases) than just that one person.

  83. Marko_Vulvic says:

    I love you guys:

    “If you can’t pay, die”

    “Canadians wait 9 months to get surgery’

    Every time I hear anything about Amurrican health care I get a big ole’ smile on my face. I’m 24, had a HEART ATTACK and it cost me $0. I was in the ER within 15 minutes, and never, ever heard anything from the hospital regarding my bill.

    Is state-sponsored health-care perfect?, nope, but I’d rather have my taxes going to save homeless people than sponsoring Marines to rape and kill Iraqi’s.

  84. E-Bell says:

    @gundark: What the fuck is wrong with you?

    What did I write that was so outrageous? That it’s not shocking for a hospital to bill folks for services rendered? I actually agreed that sending the collections agency after Mary was over the line.

    I guess if that makes me an “asshat,” so be it.

    @LAGirl: I get it; maybe under their own policy, they shouldn’t have billed the guy, but the clear tenor of the article was that the hospital shouldn’t have tried to bill the guy at all because he was indigent – not that it got sent to collections.

  85. MrEvil says:

    @jwissick: Maybe I’m just a drooling numbskull. However, wasn’t one of the goals of the constitution to promote the general welfare? According to the dictionary welfare means:

    health, happiness, or prosperity; well-being

    heck, our founding fathers may not have written it in the constitution. But they told King George V of England to fuck off because they felt they had certain inalienable rights. Up to and including life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

    Mind you in the late 1700’s healthcare was barely out of the dark ages. So maybe that’s why the hack framers forgot to include it.

    How dare you presume to dictate who lives and who dies. Maybe us poor folk just just put ourselves out of YOUR misery and kill ourselves right now. That make you feel any better asshole?

  86. @killavanilla: None of that changes the fact that they shouldn’t be giving bill collectors emergency contact information.

  87. Phildawg says:

    For all those who think we have the best healthcare in the world, please explain to me why our life expectancy is exceed by about 36 other countries? And don’t say anything about obesisty, because that epidemic is now, and those people haven’t started dying yet. That will make our ranking much lower in approximately 10-20 years.

  88. Phildawg says:

    And also if you use the example of the only thing we are number 1 in according to the WHO, which is timiliness, please realize that is the only ranking that is actually based of consumer surveys. So since you have been brainwashed to think that we have the best healthcare in the world, and you also think all other countries have to wait 3 years to get their cold checked out, realize the US citizens surveyed have a highly slanted result due to the propaganda.

  89. killavanilla says:

    It’s simple, really.
    Our healthcare system is built around treating disease, not preventing them.
    We need a paradigm shift here. Stop focusing only on treating the sick and start working on ways to prevent illness.
    Another possible reason is that our population is made up of people from other cultures in far greater numbers than anywhere else.
    Simply put, nothing is more american than people who have roots elsewhere.
    Thus, we inherit the good and the bad, genetics wise.

  90. killavanilla says:

    @Rectilinear Propagation:
    And how do we know that he didn’t put them down as a credit reference as well?
    We don’t.
    we simply don’t have enough information.

  91. SexCpotatoes says:

    Paint 8,400 house numbers with donated paint. Problem solved

  92. guymandude says:

    @killavanilla: And what difference would it make if he did put them down as a credit reference? How does that make them, in any way, responsible for the bill?

  93. bellagray says:

    CHICAGO7: The hospital most likely sent the bill to the “Emergency Contact” because the homeless patient didn’t list a residential address or phone number where he could be reached.. obviously.. because he’s homeless. In cases like that, where a homeless patient cannot be reached, charity care advisors will attempt to reach the emergency contact individuals (in the hopes that the emergency contact can get ahold of the patient) to try and resolve the account without it going into bad debt. It’s in a facility’s best interests to resolve accounts as quickly as possible without getting a collections agency involved. Obviously if they attempted to reach the emergency contact via mail and a phone call and didn’t receive a response, then the account would routinely age in their system and eventually be turned over to a collections agency.

    LAGIRL: If the hospital attempts to resolve the bill through their indigent/charity programs by contacting the patient (or in this case, contacting the emergency person to try and reach the homeless patient) and the patient does not respond or communicate with the billing office, then yes, the account goes to collections. But hospitals aren’t going to just write off thousands of dollars because they can’t reach a patient, even if they suspect the patient does not have the means to pay. Due to auditing purposes, you have to verify all of that information with the patient and it needs to be notated and documented in the billing department before bills can be written off. In order to get that information, hospitals need to get ahold of the patients. In order to get ahold of the patients, hospitals will mail correspondence and make phone calls IN ADDITION to the routine statements/bills that generate and are mailed out. If the patient doesn’t give a home address or a phone number (and/or tells the ER registration unit that he is homeless), the hospital will attempt to reach the emergency contact to try and qualify the patient for charity/indigent care.

  94. killavanilla says:


    Yeah, sort of.
    Credit references tie you to the decision.
    Who cares? The point is, this is what you get when you let someone you don’t know real well use you as a reference.
    Like it, don’t like – not important.
    We don’t have access to the forms as they were filled out, so we don’t know enough to truly be able to figure out why they received a bill….
    It’s likely that the people who they tried to bill don’t know either.

  95. du2vye says:

    Sometimes I wish I could vote for succession. That way all those that think everything has a price tag and no one should get off free and we have the best healthcare can live in their corner of the world. They can have millions of babies because few would live to adulthood under the same formula.

    The rest of us could live in peace believing that everyone deserves a chance to live, healthy and happy.

    Problems solved.

  96. edrebber says:

    This is prime example of why people should have their own 900 number to give as a contact number.