When Medical Debts Become an Impossible Burden

Healthcare costs have become a major portion of everyone's expenditure and the proportion of savings it takes up as we age only goes up. At times these costs can become impossible to bear leaving few ways out.

 

When patients receive care at Heartland Regional Medical Center in St. Joseph, Missouri and don't or can't pay their bill, the nonprofit hospital uses its very own debt collection agency to file lawsuits against people and ultimately seize their wages.

 

Federal law allows creditors to garnish up to 25 percent of a person's paycheck to repay the debt, which for many is simply an impossible burden, ProPublica reporter Paul Kiel explains on the podcast. This is only exacerbated by the legal fees and interest tacked on after a suit is filed.

 

Listen to the special ProPublica Podcast here.

 

Nonprofits like Heartland comprise about 60 percent of American hospitals. They don't have to pay taxes -- essentially akin to a subsidy of several billion dollars -- and in return, these hospitals are supposed to care for those that don't have the means for insurance.

 

"What that means exactly is a little slippery," Kiel tells Editor-in-Chief Steve Engelberg. While these hospitals do have to offer reduced care, the law doesn't say how poor somebody has to be to get that care or how much the care has to be reduced. "So you see a large variation in the type of programs these hospitals offer."

 

And even though this process happens in the courts and is public, no one tracks how many hospitals sue their patients or how frequently, Kiel says. "That's one thing that we've been trying to bring to light ... hopefully that'll lead to more attention."

 

Courtesy: ProPublica.org

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When a Patient’s Death is Broadcast Without Permission

The ABC television show “NY Med” filmed Mark Chanko’s final moments without the approval of his family. Even though his face was blurred, his wife recognized him. “I saw my husband die before my eyes.”

 

Anita Chanko could not sleep. At 4 a.m., on an August night in 2012, she settled onto the couch in her Yorkville living room with her dog, Daisy, and her parrot, Elliott, and flipped on the DVR. On came the prior night's episode of " NY Med," the popular real-life medical series set at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, starring Dr. Mehmet Oz. Mrs. Chanko, 75, was a fan of the show and others like it.

 

"It starts off, there's a woman with stomach cancer and her family, and then there's somebody with a problem with their baby, I think it was a heart," she remembered. "And then I see the doctor that treated my husband."

 

Mark Chanko, her husband, had died 16 months earlier, in April 2011, after being struck by a sanitation truck while crossing a street near his home. The doctors and nurses at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center tried in vain to save his life.

 

On the TV screen, she saw the chief surgery resident Sebastian Schubl, responding to an emergency in which a man is hit by a vehicle.

 

"And then I see, even with the blurred picture, you could tell it was him," she said. "You could hear his speech pattern. I hear my husband say, 'Does my wife know I'm here?'."

 

There was no doubt in her mind: The blurred-out man moaning in pain was her husband of almost 46 years, the Korean War veteran she met in a support group for parents without partners.

 

"I hear them saying his blood pressure is falling. I hear them getting out the paddles and then I hear them saying, 'OK, are you ready to pronounce him?'."

 

Read full story here

 

Courtesy: ProPublica.org

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Is This Man Responsible for the Murders of 5 American Nuns?

In an interview with ProPublica, Christopher Vambo, a former lieutenant to Charles Taylor, acknowledged that the brutal 1992 killings might have happened under his command.

 

More than 20 years ago, a terrible crime bloodied this suburb of cinderblock homes, dirt-floor stores and lush green bush grass.


Five American nuns were killed when a vicious battle swept through the town during Liberia's civil war. The killers left their bodies burned and broken, rotting in the sun.


The deaths were numerically insignificant in a conflict that by its end in 2003 had left hundreds of thousands of Liberians dead. But the killings crystallized the horror of Liberia's long war for Westerners.


The Catholic Church, the U.S. Embassy and Liberia's Truth and Reconciliation Commission all investigated. All came to a similar conclusion: The killers were soldiers in the army of Charles Taylor, the Liberian warlord convicted by an international court for crimes against humanity.


No killers,  however, have ever been brought to justice. The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation eventually launched an investigation. But long delays by the agency and a steadfast reluctance by the Liberian government to prosecute those blamed for atrocities has meant that none of the suspects has ever faced trial, according to an examination by ProPublica and Frontline.

Read Full Story Here

 

Courtesy : ProPublica.org

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