In the trenches of the American health care system, when an injured person needs immediate medical treatment, they get it. It’s the American way of helping the wounded. When was the last time we saw a hospital turn away a bleeding patient, or someone sitting in the emergency room with a compound fracture. If any hospital did this, we would see outrage on the nightly news.
As a personal injury lawyer, I know the facts. People without health insurance get treatment and that treatment is completely written off by the hospital. how does this work? What happens is that a social worker from the hospital will come into the patient room and do a financial review. They will ask obvious questions, such as, are you married, are you employed, and do you have health insurance.
Let’s assume for the sake of argument that the patient is single, living alone, and has lost his job within the past year. Guess what, that patient is one of those uninsured Americans. Now, not only is he not insured, but he is seriously injured. In such a situation, what are the chances of paying the bill soon. The hospital will simply write it off as bad debt in some cases, not all cases. Or, they may choose to just put the patient in collections without any realistic prospect of payment and ruin their credit.
So, you are writing off a bad debt. The work is already done. How does the hospital recover the money? The answer is that you owe the next guy more money with insurance. You have to pass the fixed cost around somehow. For example, you can’t own a fruit stand and give away some fruit to hungry people and try to raise your prices on the rest of the inventory. After all, the owner of the fruit stand also has to pay the bills.
As a personal injury attorney, I see that the lack of affordable health care hurts the economy in additional ways. For example, sometimes I get a call from a person who claims they have been hurt and want to sue. Therefore, I hear what happened and I immediately determine that the injuries that have occurred do not amount to a viable liability claim. When I tell the person I’m not interested because I don’t see the obligation, I get the standard back. “I want my medical bills to be paid”. In other words, the person was expecting a lawsuit because they didn’t have insurance. The person knew or should have known that they had a claim for negligence, but are desperate to pay their debt.
The problem is compounded by the idea that even if the claim is minor, a lawyer may try to negotiate a settlement because of the injuries. Remember that the client is desperate to pay the medical bills. The lawyer is only presenting the client’s argument. The risk for the lawyer is that they may lose and get nothing. However, there is a cascading effect because it costs the insurance company money when an attorney is involved.
The reality is that most people would never think of suing or filing a claim if they have insurance. Money isn’t the whole motivation behind the lawsuit. The whole motivation is to pay the medical bills. That’s why the Affordable Care Act will ultimately save billions of dollars and help America’s citizens get the health care they deserve.
There are valid claims for damages filed every day. These claimants are required to be compensated for injuries caused by the wrongful acts of others. An uninsured person interfering with legitimate claims places a significant burden on the economy, the taxpayer, and the legal system. So, why not provide affordable health care.