In the trenches of the US health care system, when an injured person requires immediate medical treatment, they get it. It is the American way to help the injured. When was the last time we saw a hospital turn away a bleeding patient, or a person sitting in the emergency room with a compound fracture. If a hospital did that, we would see outrage on the nightly news.
As a personal injury lawyer, I know the facts. People without health insurance get treated and that treatment gets completely written off by the hospital. How does this happen? What happens is a social worker from the hospital will come into the patients room and conduct a financial review. They will ask the obvious questions, such as, are you married, are you employed, and do you have health insurance.
For arguments sake let’s say, patient is single, living alone, and lost their job within the last year. Guess what, that patient is one of those uninsured Americans. Now, not only are they uninsured, but they are seriously injured. So what is the prospect of them paying the bill anytime soon. The hospital in some cases, not all cases, will simply write it off as a bad debt. Or, they may opt to just put the patient into collections with no real prospect of being paid and ruin their credit.
So, you are writing off a bad debt. The work is already done. How does the hospital recoup the money? The answer is you charge the next guy with the insurance more money. You have to pass on the fixed cost in some way. For instance, you could not own a fruit stand and give some of the fruit away to starving people and not try to raise your prices on the remaining inventory. After all, even the fruit stand owner has bills to pay.
As a personal injury lawyer, I see the lack of affordable health care hurt the economy in additional ways. For instance, every now and then I will receive a call from a person claiming to have suffered an injury and wanting to sue. So, I listen to what happened and I immediately determine that the injuries suffered do not amount to a viable liability claim. When I tell the person I am not interested because I do not see liability, I get the standard come back. “All I want are my medical bills paid”. In other words, the person was hoping they had a lawsuit because they have no insurance. The person knew or should have known they did have a negligence claim, but they are desperate to pay off their debt.
The problem is confounded by the idea that even though the claim is marginal, a lawyer might try to pursue a settlement because of the injuries. Remember the client is desperate to pay medical bills. The lawyer is only presenting the client’s argument. The risk for the lawyer is that they could lose and get nothing. However, the cascading effect occurs because when a lawyer gets involved it costs the insurance company money.
The reality is that most people would never think of suing or filing a claim if they had insurance. The entire motivation behind a lawsuit is not money. The entire motivation is payment of medical bills. That is why the affordable care act will ultimately save billion’s of dollars and help the citizens of the US get the health care they deserve.
There are legitimate claims for damages filed every day. These claimants need to be compensated for there injuries caused by the wrongful acts of others. The uninsured person interfering with legitimate claims puts a significant burden on the economy, the tax payer, and the legal system. So, why not provide affordable health care.