Wednesday, May 30, 2007


Sometimes when I'm slumming it in the various online newspaper discussion boards I have found myself writing things like this:

Let's say that your child is seriously injured or develops a nasty illness. You take them to the hospital. You have healthcare insurance through your employer. After a couple weeks of intensive treatment, tests, consulting specialists, and rehabilitation, your child is released and gets to go home.

But the insurance copays force you into bankruptcy.

"BOSTON and CAMBRIDGE--February 2, 2005--Medical problems contributed to about half of all bankruptcies, involving 700,000 households in 2001, according to a story published today as a Web Exclusive by the journal Health Affairs. Families with children were especially hard hit -- about 700,000 children lived in families that declared bankruptcy in the aftermath of serious medical problems. Another 600,000 spouses, elderly parents and other dependents brought the total number of people directly affected by medical bankruptcies to more than two million annually.

Surprisingly, most of those bankrupted by medical problems had health insurance. More than three-quarters were insured at the start of the bankrupting illness. Among those with private insurance, however, one-third had lost coverage at least temporarily by the time they filed for bankruptcy. Often illness led to job loss, and with it the loss of health insurance. Out-of-pocket medical costs (for co-payments, deductibles and uncovered services) averaged $13,460 for those with private insurance at the onset of their illness, vs. $10,893 for the uninsured. The highest costs -- averaging $18,005 -- were incurred by those who initially had private coverage but lost it in the course of their illness. Many families were bankrupted by medical expenses well below the catastrophic thresholds of high deductible plans that are increasingly popular with employers. The authors comment that even their own coverage from Harvard leaves them at risk for out-of-pocket costs above levels that often led to medical bankruptcy."

The headline of the Harvard news release cited says that most of those Americans that were bankrupted by healthcare emergencies were middle-class and insured.

From Holly Sklar:

William McGuire, of UnitedHealth Group, the nation's leading insurer, was the third-highest-paid CEO on the Forbes list. His pay of $124.8 million could cover the average health-insurance premiums of nearly 34,000 people.

"While executives are richly compensated, patients are tightening their belts," Dr. Isaac Wornom, chairman of the Richmond (Va.) Academy of Medicine, wrote last year. "Premiums, deductibles and co-pays are up, while benefits continue to shrink. One million Virginians -- that's one out of seven -- have no health insurance at all, and this number is increasing. . . . Half of the uninsured work full time for small businesses that simply can't afford the inflated rates."

You work hard, you're patriotic, you put food on your family, and what do you get if you or one of your loved ones is stricken by a catastrophic illness? Nothing.



John said...

Nice observation, thanks.

Eli Blake said...

But doncha know?

If you just read what some on the right said last year during the bankrupcty bill debate, all those people filing bankruptcy to try and get their credit card debt cancelled were just running it up by spending too much at the mall!

You know, this is America-- where every millionaire has access to the best health care in the world!

Anonymous said...

How Democratic! (see E.J. Dionne's June 1 op-ed, to the effect that Dems talk about health care, GoPerverts talk about torture.)

from Ruth

BillyBob said...

Dear shrimplate, I am sorry if you felt that I attacked you. Clearly we are not communicating. My
feelings are this: sometimes a patient does not know that they are being an asshole. I'm sure my 21 year old daughter did not three weeks ago, when she was dying in her hospital bed and her nurse was in
full combat mode with her. She had 5 feet of dead gangrenous small bowel removed that day, and is not
yet well. I think I've been blacklisted by May, so if it was me who rocked the boat, I will never be able to
deliver the apology that I tried desparately to make today. When my best friend was dying with ESLD, she was not a nice person. Woe to the doctor, nurse, fellow church goer, cousin, and anyone else
who did not recognize that she was completely delusional (she at times thought I was an ex boyfriend who had been abusive and I sometimes had to leave the room because of her tirades.)You all have
a terribly difficult job, and I admire you all greatly. I am sorry for offending you. I also fear the day that I cross back into liverland. My wife says I am equally as unreasonable as was my best friend, but I only remember
unpleasantness, not details.

Dirk Gently said...

This is exactly why "Universal Coverage" is not a solution to our healthcare disaster.

The problem is not that people don't have insurance. The problem is that they do not get care. And until politicians stop treating the phrase "socialized medicine" as the foulest curse that can be uttered, the problem will not be solved.

shrimplate said...


I am really sorry to hear that about your young daughter. Nasty and painful, that. The nurses I work with would have aggressively advocated for her comfort and safety.

You're absolutely right that some people sort of lose it and they are unaware of their actions. I have much sympathy for them.

Unfortunately some people are just plain assholes regardless of their level of orientation. We all know the types.

GingerJar said...

Then there is the whole workers comp mess where if you do get hurt at work they are so afraid of a "reportable injury" that they will jump through hoops to keep you from actually being off with the injury...even getting the doc to change his verdict from no work to limited work...we shall see how they work a nurse w/ 1 1/2 hr standing limitation and 1 1/2 hr walking limitation....that will be a trick. Hey...if they just fix the problem before somebody else gets hurts all will be forgiven.