Jan 12, 2009
A Baltimore woman living on Social Security and food stamps was sued after emergency brain surgery to pay a bill of $36,224. A disabled man living on $1,619 per month was told by the judge he owed $10,736 to Hopkins Hospital PLUS interest of $1,542. Only after the hospitals received some bad publicity about these cases did they agree to wipe out the debts.
Hospitals in Maryland have benefitted for 30 years from a system that guarantees them payments. Last year, the 47 hospitals in Maryland received a combined total of 921 million dollars for the free care they claimed they had provided.
The fact is, no one monitors this debt payment, so no one knows for sure whether hospitals are collecting for the same bills from both the patients and the insurers.
Newspaper reporters discovered all kinds of dirty tricks – billing poor people who couldn’t pay and didn’t have lawyers to defend themselves; suing patients covered by Medicaid; charging patients 12% on outstanding balances, which is twice the legal rate on other debts; suing for “balance billing,” that is, demanding to be paid although the hospital had an agreement with the insurer to accept the amount paid by the insurer; bringing suit over amounts as small as $30.
Maryland lawmakers have voted down more than one bill proposed to overcome these abuses.
Maryland hospitals can get away with this hospital care robbery thanks to their friends in the state legislature. Illinois is not the only state where corruption reigns.