The article has been automatically translated into English by Google Translate from Russian and has not been edited.
Переклад цього матеріалу українською мовою з російської було автоматично здійснено сервісом Google Translate, без подальшого редагування тексту.
Bu məqalə Google Translate servisi vasitəsi ilə avtomatik olaraq rus dilindən azərbaycan dilinə tərcümə olunmuşdur. Bundan sonra mətn redaktə edilməmişdir.

Americans are massively bankrupt due to medical debts

In 60% of cases, Americans today point out very heavy bills from medical institutions and services as the cause of bankruptcy. This is more often than bankruptcy due to loans for housing or study.

Фото: Depositphotos

In April 2016, Venus Lockett was set to give a speech at an event in Atlanta. She was stressed - the woman was doing a presentation late yesterday and then deleted it by mistake. When she went to the podium, she noticed that she could not pronounce words normally and only made indistinct sounds. Lockett, 57, suffered a mini-stroke. The Atlantic.

The uninsured woman was taken to a hospital a few kilometers from the conference room. There she was kept all night, taken tests and discharged home, where she soon recovered completely. The bill came in May. Lockett was charged $ 26 for “surveillance”, which was required to be paid within 203,62 days. Lockett fell into a stupor.

“Hell, I knew I shouldn't have gone to the hospital,” she recalls. "But at the same time I was scared when I couldn't speak."

Medical debt is a unique American phenomenon, a burden that is difficult to imagine in other developed countries. Nearly 60% of people who filed for bankruptcy reported that medical expenses "very much" or "to some extent" contributed to their ruin, according to a poll published in the American Journal of Public Health. This is more than the percentage of those who cited home or student loans.

A study in 2016 showed that a third of the cancer patients who survived were in debt due to medical expenses, and 3% declared bankruptcy. According to a study by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau of 2014, medical bills are the most common cause of debts sent to collection agencies.

Most consumer advocates said the problem would be exacerbated: the percentage of uninsured is growing, and more and more people are signing up for cheaper health insurance plans. More Americans get high-deductible insurance, which requires patients to pay thousands of dollars before the insurance company pays for anything. Networks of doctors are shrinking, which means that more and more health workers will be out of coverage.

Emergency room visits and planned surgical procedures are the most common reasons for high medical bills that patients simply cannot afford to pay. Sometimes bizarre loopholes make their way into the darkest moments of human destiny. For example, a child will be insured at birth under Medicaid or Child Health Insurance, but stillbirth may not be covered. Therefore, the average cost of a stillborn in hospital services alone is more than $ 750 higher, further exacerbating parental stress.

In some states, hospitals are required to provide charitable care to low-income, uninsured patients, but these patients often receive bills. Hospitals send debts to collectors without telling these “collectors” about charity, says Emilia Morris, legal director for Central California Legal Services. "A patient is sometimes given a judgment and it turns out that no one has even heard of charity."

A spokesperson for the American Hospital Association said that in 2017, medical facilities provided assistance worth over 38 billions to patients who could not afford it.

“Hospitals across the country are looking to find ways to help underinsured and uninsured patients,” the spokesman said. “Hospitals offer charitable assistance programs, screen government assistance for patient eligibility, and offer discounts whenever possible. Every day, American hospitals treat patients who can only pay minimal or no pay. "

However, some patients have medical debt that forces them to no longer seek help - they are afraid that the debt will grow. This debt can worsen credit history, making it difficult for a person to move to a better area or make other health decisions. In the end, these people get worse, and the debts grow anyway.

The $ 26 bill was not the last Lockett received in the April incident. On April 203, she was billed separately for consultations between two doctors during her hospital stay in the amount of $ 28. That amount was added to a few other costs for diagnostic tests to create a new bill for $ 1301 that came in a month later.

In May, another bill came from Grady EMS - $ 1807 for a car picking her up from a conference room. Lockett says she called the company to try and negotiate, and a month later Grady EMS sent her a new, reduced bill for $ 1084.

Attempts by Lockett to negotiate with the hospital were less successful. On April 26, the woman received a letter from Chamberlin Edmonds, claiming that she could be helped to “find government benefits” to pay a bill, such as Medicaid or Medicare. Lockett says she did not have the right to participate in Medicare or Medicaid. Later, the company deleted its site and did not answer journalists' questions. As a result, having asked for help in the service, Lockett was left with nothing but his $ 30 000 debt.

A year later, Lockett attended a meeting with representatives of the non-profit group Georgia Watch. One representative told her that the organization has a guide for people who want to negotiate their medical bills. Lockett took a copy of the recommendations and called the hospital. This time, according to her, the account was canceled.

"The reality is that medical costs are not objective, real costs," says Georgia Watch's Berneta L. Haynes. One day, an MRI can cost $ 19. Another time - it will cost nothing.

Although she still had a reduced bill from the ambulance, Lockett was lucky. To many, no. Dana Peterman, a physical therapist in Forsyth, Georgia, owed more than $ 4000 after her son was admitted to the hospital with an anaphylactic reaction to peanuts in 2017. She tried to negotiate, but the hospital did not give a discount. The woman paid the full amount, not wanting the debt to affect her credit history.

To negotiate with the hospital, consumer advocates recommend asking for financial assistance, including charitable aid for the uninsured. If that doesn't work, you need to find out if the patient can pay as if they have Medicare — these are usually lower amounts. Hospitals and even collection agencies often agree to such decisions in exchange for a lump sum payment.

The system requires people to negotiate on their behalf with giant corporations worth tens of thousands of dollars, often while in bed and recovering from illness. If the patient does not pay, the medical debt can be sent to the debt collector. Small debts are sold to debt buyers - companies that are trying to collect as much of the bad debt as possible. These buyers rely only on a spreadsheet list of debts and not a real medical history, making it difficult for patients to negotiate a deal or fix a mistake. In cases where everything is very bad and a person literally has to give all the income to pay off debts or to the courts, it may make sense to declare bankruptcy, experts say.

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