Friday, April 21, 2017

The Trauma of Medical Fees

“Everyone in America’s at risk for an accidental injury, and not everyone’s protected from the financial consequences,”  Dr. John Scott pointed out. 

Dr. John Scott doesn’t ask to see proof of insurance. Instead, he immediately begins treatment.Hospital care frequently saves patients from gunshots, stab wounds, crushing car accidents and other traumatic injuries. But Scott found in a new study that 7 out of 10 adult uninsured trauma patients suffer another debilitating injury: financial catastrophe

Researchers analyzed 117,502 hospital admissions for uninsured 18- to 64-year-olds admitted for trauma care from 2007 to 2011, before implementation of the Affordable Care Act.Overall, half the patients had an estimated annual income below $40,867, and half had hospital charges of at least $27,420, not counting charges from doctors, who bill separately. In other words, one unforeseen major injury could potentially cost well over half of someone’s annual income. 

 71 percent of uninsured 18- to 64-year-old trauma patients - or more than 82,000 men and women - risk financial calamity every year. Patients with the lowest incomes were at highest risk - 78 percent - of destitution. But even those with the highest incomes had a 53 percent risk of a medically induced fiscal catastrophe, the study found.

Dr. David Himmelstein, a professor at the City University of New York’s Hunter College School of Public Health, described the study as “quite sophisticated.” It “paints an extraordinarily disturbing picture of America’s vulnerability,” he said in an email. “This study shows that someone who is in a car accident, or is mugged, or experiences sudden trauma for some other reason, risks being driven to financial ruin,” he added. “In essence, unless you’re Bill Gates, you could be at risk of financial catastrophe if you fall seriously ill,” said Himmelstein.

 Scott’s message is “Financial catastrophe is a reality for tens of thousands of Americans who haven’t planned for it. They’re being cured, but being cured into destitution. There’s nobody we turn away for emergency trauma care. We don’t check people’s insurance status. We don’t check their wallet,” he said. “If everybody is deserving of world-class trauma care, everybody is deserving of protection from financial catastrophe from that care.”

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