One Thing the Pandemic Hasn’t Stopped: Aggressive Medical-Debt Collection

When I initially read the title of the article, my reaction was probably similar to most people; frustration. However, as I read the article, my frustration remained but shifted focus. Where initially it was focused on the big bad health care organization and debt collection practices, it then shifted to how health care administrative and administrator costs have overburdened a system in which the most fragile people are hurt the most. I’m not against organizations and provider’s services having costs as my services as a physician aren’t for free (that would constitute indentured servitude), but health care in 2020 has become an out of control beast. The article reports:

U.S. hospitals are in the spotlight for being on the frontline of fighting the pandemic. But in the shadows, debt collection operations continue, often by the same institutions treating coronavirus patients, all while unemployment and uncertainty soar.

            I was born and raised to work hard, pay your way, and pay your bills. Easy for me to do today (it wasn’t always) as I have the means. However, the article points to people who are vulnerable in society and actually being hurt by unscrupulous debt collection practices. I’m not against having bills to pay or even health care costing money, but to kick people when they are down is not right. The unfortunate paradox is that often those who need health care the most are often those with limited means. It’s unfortunate for these individuals that administrative and administrator costs of healthcare have burdened the system that these people get hurt more when they seek health care. Now they are left in debt over their heads. Often their health insurance coverage if they have any, is poor quality covering little. Then they are left with the mounting debt. Here’s the dichotomy:

In a moment when hospitals nationwide are being heralded for their role at the front lines of fighting the pandemic, some Americans continue to experience a less favorable side of hospital operations: aggressive collection for unpaid medical bills, even at a time when many of the debtors are seeing their income plunge.

            The article is about aggressive practices in collecting these debts. What it should be about is how the overarching administrative monster has taken over. Paying for health care shouldn’t be as big a problem as it is. I don’t blame organizations for trying to recoup the money that the healthcare services cost. But it’s reached a point where some hospitals are now filing small claims cases against people in debt for their healthcare services. Now, these same people have to deal with court and attorney fees.             I guess the moral of the article is that medical debt is a reality. Healthcare services aren’t for free, but costs are driven up by administrative costs that burden the most vulnerable people in our society. We must find a way to stop hurting already hurt people. People need care. Care cost money. Those costs shouldn’t sink an individual or family. 

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Robert Duprey MD

Robert is a 2nd career physician (MD); a combat Veteran with the US Army; a former psychiatric nurse practitioner; an independent researcher; a medical writer; and now having passed USMLE Steps 1, 2CK, 2CS, and 3, is a residency applicant. 

  1 comment for “One Thing the Pandemic Hasn’t Stopped: Aggressive Medical-Debt Collection

  1. Aaron M. Levine
    May 20, 2020 at 3:00 pm

    I have looked at some part time retirement work. I was contacted by an aesthetic spa for a medical director. They did not feel the need for a medical doctor but one loan company required an MD/DO to vouch for the medical aesthetic situation to qualify for a medical loan

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