Medical debt has been a major problem in this country for some time‚ and it’s pushed literally millions of people over the financial brink.
Recently‚ our Los Angeles Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Attorneys read an in-depth‚ investigative piece by the reporters at TIME Magazine‚ chronicling the often nonsensical maze that is medical billing. This is a system that essentially is a set-up for America’s sick and ailing.
Even veteran reporters had a difficult time breaking through the enormous wall of silence or diversion that accompanies questions surrounding medical billing. Questions regarding items as innocuous as surgical gowns were met with deflection and the insistence that such answers would be akin to revealing private medical information.
That surgical gown‚ by the way‚ cost the patient $40‚ despite the fact that a package of 30 of those same gowns cost $180 online. There was also a $32 charge for a reusable blanket‚ a $5 charge for a reusable pen. That doesn’t seem like much‚ but when it was all tallied up‚ that particular patient (who was receiving a quick‚ out-patient surgery) was charged $8‚000 just for medical supplies‚ another $2‚000 for medication. Altogether‚ his bill was $50‚000.
This was just a few hours of treatment. Those who require several days or weeks or who don’t have insurance are often left completely destitute. Ironically‚ these are the people who are more likely to have been in bad financial shape before they even received the treatment. A lack of insurance and money means people will put off receiving preventative care‚ which means their conditions are worse‚ their stays are longer and their bills are higher.
These kind of markups are routine‚ TIME reporters found‚ and are doing more than simply stretching our wallets – they are threatening our overall financial stability.
A major problem is that the way that hospitals charge for items and services often has little to do with what they actually cost. Hospitals and doctors offices often bill according to something called a, “charge-master”. These lists are usually specific to the facility‚ and itemized costs are arbitrary. For example‚ an individual diabetes test strip‚ which will run you about $30 for pack of 50 online‚ cost $18 each at a hospital in Connecticut.
In the end‚ that patient ended up being billed a total of $21‚000‚ after she had gone to the hospital emergency room with chest pains that‚ in the course of several hours‚ were discovered to be the result of indigestion.
Successfully disputing some of those charges can be extremely difficult‚ but it’s certainly worth it to try if you can negotiate those costs down to a more manageable amount. Many people can’t‚ though.
Adding insult to injury is that when you pay off these bills‚ it does virtually nothing to boost your credit. While leaving them to languish will cause your score a major hit.
In these situations‚ bankruptcy can help. A Chapter 7 bankruptcy will completely eliminate debts‚ while a Chapter 13 bankruptcy will allow you to work out a longer-term payment plan that will usually have you paying a fraction of the original cost.
If you are thinking about Chapter 7 bankruptcy in Los Angeles‚ contact Cal West Law to schedule your free consultation. Call (800) 568-0707.
Bitter Pill: Why Medical Bills Are Killing Us‚ Feb. 26‚ 2013‚ By Steven Brill‚ TIME Magazine