Why So Many Hospitals Are Suing Their Patients

“My daughter has to eat,” one mother said. “And if it’s choosing between that or paying a doctor bill, I’m going to choose her.”


Comments: 29

  1. I want to help Amanda with her medical bills. How can I help?

  2. @Michael Vargas Vote Democratic! and for someone with a genuine solution for the problem with medical care in this nation.

  3. @Michael Vargas you are sweet. I mentioned the same idea only to read on and see someone had already helped her out.

  4. If it can be believed a much bigger national disgrace than “gun control “. Just not as acutely emotional

  5. After listening to that all I can say is "Thank Tom(my) I live in Canada" Tommy Douglas was the premier of Saskatchewan and the leader of the federal NDP who brought Medicare to Canada in the 1960's. He was voted "The Greatest Canadian" in 2004.

  6. I was shocked at the incredulous tone of today's story. The authors of this story just appeared amazed that people with "insurance" still have massive out of pocket costs to pay involving their healthcare. This has been going on for over a decade. They also didn't mention that in most states the lowest deductible plan on the Affordable care act is more like $5000 dollars, not $1500. I listened with growing anger and disgust to this episode as the authors displayed their completely out of touch and privileged ignorance about the reality of the healthcare system for tens of millions of Americans. I don't think I've ever heard an episode of the Daily with a more stunning display of elitism than what I heard today.

  7. @Gregg Long At least they listened, and reported on this. Most of the media happily ignore this, or report the right-wing talking points, to fool everyone

  8. @Gregg Long I agree. While I'm not pleased with the current state of the health care industry - everyone needs to be a self advocate. You need to find out the cost of treatments before you have them done. Evey plan today has deductible, co-pays, in-network deductions,etc. As you note, this has been the system for years.

  9. The Jungle Prince articles are truly moving. I can’t get over the story. Absolutely touching and you can feel it in the delivery of the tale. So well done. Please keep up the great reporting!

  10. My deductible is $9,200 for a family of two, with a $6,200 out-of-pocket max for each of us! Insane... so my insurance pretty much never covers anything. I do see "in-network" doctors, so the rate charged by the doctor is negotiated by the insurance company. I'm happy to have a job and some coverage, but it is still a lousy system.

  11. @Melissa Wasserman Such a high deductible? How is this different than having no insurance? Hopefully you are negotiating "cash" doctors visit to get a lower price.

  12. @Melissa Wasserman Our deductible situation is similar as we cope with enormous coinsurance requirements and the absurd rules designed to increase consumer costs. Plus, we’re self-employed so we cover the whole nut. It’s overwhelming. But, on the bright side, the insurance companies are making an even higher profit. (sarcasm) This is the unintended consequence of the ACA

  13. Medicare for All: a politically charged phrase guaranteed to be divisive, guaranteed to split opinions and divide all who care about healthcare. Yet, it appears Medicare-for-All is a necessity; a cure-all for a healthcare system that is clearly unsustainable. Does private insurance even work anymore? Are healthcare costs unsustainable? Can this model survive? And what about business? Should business try to reign in healthcare costs? At what point do sky high deductibles drive away applicants? And what about the healthcare industry? Surely they must not like M-f-A, should they not lower costs? And lastly, when the default judgements pile up, at what point does the whole thing implode upon itself? Should we just wait for it to happen like any economic or financial crisis and bail out the hospitals? A generous donor helped Amanda with her medical bills. What if Amanda’s daughter had a chronic, life-long condition? What if a DNA analysis had been done and Amanda’s insurer rejected Amanda’s family for insurance? After all, her daughter has the back of a seventy-year old. Many questions beg answers. Perhaps some are unanswerable? But America’s healthcare system is either in crisis now or soon will be. Are problems not more expensive if you ignore them? They are. Elizabeth Warren in 2020. Medicare for All now. I say this not because I’m a left wing radical but because I see the need. I understand that tackling the problem now will be much cheaper than letting it go.

  14. I understood why this podcast repeatedly made reference to Amanda's fears that she could go to jail if she didn't pay her bills, as many Americans have these fears. The part of the podcast that lost me, though, was the part where the reported indicated she could have her wages garnished, a lien on her house, or "even possibly be thrown in jail" if she didn't pay the judgment. What is the basis for this statement? We use jail for contempt in connection with civil cases, but it is very rare. We do not punish failure to pay a civil judgment with jail time. What am I missing here? Why isn't the podcast doing more to discredit this unfounded fear so many Americans have about non-payment of debt?

  15. I’m a physician. I care for hospitalized patients every day. There are so many issues one could address here. Amanda’s story is not unique. I routinely see the devastation that our system leaves in its wake. In the first few minutes of this episode, we hear one of the problems - spine surgery for pain. It is overdone, overly expensive and the data shows that non-surgical management should be preferred in most cases. The spine surgeon and hospital system are incentivized to offer surgery, which is more dangerous and expensive. That’s just one piece of this story, but the situation would be different if surgery was not recommended in the first place. Health care providers and hospital systems always respond to incentives. Oncologists, cardiologists... every specialty is susceptible. It’s not that they don’t want to do the right thing, it’s that the right thing is not always clear and the path forward is subjective in manny cases. https://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/6/12/e012938 Hospitals aren’t fighting for their lives and are looking to exploit every possible revenue stream. They (we) are sacrificing moral authority and patient livelihood in this fight. Medicare for all would be one way to improve the situation and I would fully support it.

  16. The back of a 70 year old? Impossible. Sounds like a doctor looking for business. Likely unethical professional conduct. Back surgery is reserved for few really bad traumatic cases. Conservative care is always first. What happened to physical therapy or chiropractic care first?

  17. I was disappointed in this story meant to emotionally move people, but without at all going into the realities of the health care system as a whole. As a physician, I can tell you that while it is heartbreaking to see people unable to afford care, I also understand the costs of providing that healthcare. You mention “the money has to come from somewhere,” but then leave it at that, with no further discussion. I work in an overcrowded emergency department, where people want care fast, and want all the answers now. This leads to expensive tests and procedures. Doctors feel pressure to move patients as quickly as possible, so shot-gunning of tests is common. We no longer have the luxury of intelligent rationing of tests or observing patients to see if symptoms change. The blame is on both sides, for sure. It is an incredibly complex issue, but your podcast today boils down to “evil hospitals targeting poor, hard-working people.” I have come to expect a more thorough examination of a situation from the Times.

  18. Although I totally understand that healthcare is a mess and costs are outrageous, I’m still puzzled with why Amanda had such a poor understanding of her health plan. Did she know what the deductible was? What were the co-pays? In the episode, it sounds like she was completely uninformed about these items. I’m lucky to have only a $300 deductible employer-provided plan, but still spend significant time on the phone and on the web understanding the details of what is covered, what the co-pays are and if a Dr referral is needed. It eliminates lots of surprise bills.

  19. @Oksana Some people find mathematics and documents frustrating and work. Often pursuing them after the fact. The other bit is we all have to be our own advocate when facing any bureaucracy. She has missed a court date since she wasn't notified of the new schedule, and I likewise have done so for a traffic violation. I normally don't have complaints about NYTimes the daily, but early in the episode they illustrated the health costs neglecting to discuss employer contribution and how they have or haven't changed over the time period.

  20. "30% of all donations on go fund me go towards medical costs" (Go fund me CEO) Nearly 250,000 campaigns have been set up through the site to help pay for health care costs, raising $650 million in contributions, according to the company’s website.

  21. If she’s clearing only $800ish every couple weeks AND has four dependent children, she most certainly qualifies for Meficaid. Why isn’t she using it?

  22. Medicare has premiums. Basic Medicare only covers 80% unless you purchase supplementary coverage which has an additional monthly premium. That only kicks in after you're $800 out of pocket - a significant sum for many. Then there are drugs. You need separate insurance for that and nearly all of these Part D plans have a pretty high deductible for many classes of drugs, the copays for even basic generic drugs increase almost every month. Amanda would have done better on this, perhaps. The issues here, compared to, say, Germany, where public and private insurance coexist, there are no copays for anything except a very small one for medications, are vast and not addressed here. But, please, stop blaming Amanda. Most of you have not but a few have and I have to wonder where that impulse comes from.

  23. @Jonathan Baron You seem to be talking about Medicare, not Medicaid.

  24. Yes, this story was designed to tug on our emotions, and with good reason. This is an appalling situation! I'm pleased to see comments from medical practitioners who acknowledge that the medical industry shares responsibility in this debacle. I was working in medical management in the 1980's when the tug-of-war between the healthcare industry and the insurance companies seemed to really take hold -- I witnessed practitioners (my own employer included) exponentially inflating prices of services to raise what he could get from the insurance companies. Insurance fought back with more restrictions. Physicians and hospitals responded by itemizing services more. Truly, much has changed since then; however, I do wonder how much of the "high cost of healthcare" today is due to what has now become a tradition of inflating prices of services and products in the continual, annual profit-driven tug-of-war between the many sides of this industry. Ultimately, those patients with no insurance, or those with these extraordinarily high-deductible policies, get stuck with responsibility for a full amount, or close to a full amount, that very few insurance companies would be willing to pay.

  25. I am frustrated that Amanda does not know how her insurance works. It truly is sad. But at least I know why so many people were against the Affordable Care Act -- they were ignorant of the facts. Large insurance companies controlled the debate and politicians refused to protect their constituents because the insurance companies paid the huge lobbyist community to overwhelm the debate.

  26. I had a biopsy done after getting a mammogram. I have insurance and received a bill for $3600. The hospital billed me as if I had major surgery. There were two charges. One for the biopsies and the other charge for almost $35,000 for treatment and observation. Um, no. I was in and out in 3hrs. I kept track of every action and statement during my time there. My bra was stuffed with an ice pack, no pain killers and I left. I contested the bill within minutes of digesting the information. I was told it will take a few months to straighten out and no payment was due (at this time). Review every bill, every line item. Don't be afraid to speak up. I truly believe they play on people's lack of education re: medical billing.

  27. Please correct your facts: Deductibles and co-pays are not new post 2006. I've had my own health insurance, either through work or independently, since my mother died when I was a teen in 1967. I've always had a deductible and co-pays, whether work was civil service or private. Yes, they've increased in recent years, but a successful debate on health care solutions needs accuracy.

  28. Oh, but "people LOVE their private healthcare!" screams the establishment shills on right wing news media. Where are these people who love their managed, or should I say "mismanaged" healthcare? I don't like paying $110 out of every 2 week check for healthcare in addition to what the employer pays and then co pays on top of that just so I can get a 90 day supply of lisinopril for $9. We are the laughing stock of the world to let our healthcare system to be run as a business for profit to make millionaires into billionaires.

  29. I'm always amazed when I hear about "reasonable" deductibles like the one mentioned in this story. I've been w/o insurance for 7 years now because I just can't it to make sense. A standard policy on (on the exchange) is $1200-1400 per month plus a $12,000 deductible AND co-insurance. My wife and I are 50 and in excellent health. Let's do a story about deductibles by state/region as it sounds that they differ wildly.