For Americans too poor for insurance and too rich for Medicaid, getting sick is catastrophic, especially when nonprofit hospitals garnish your wages to recoup inflated costs.
"When patients receive care at Heartland [Regional Medical Center, in St. Joseph, MO] and don't or can't pay, their bills often end up here at Northwest Financial Services. And if those patients don't meet Northwest's demands, their debts can make another, final stop: the Buchanan County Courthouse. From 2009 through 2013, Northwest filed more than 11,000 lawsuits. When it secured a judgment, as it typically did, Northwest was entitled to seize a hefty portion of a debtor's paycheck. During those years, the company garnished the pay of about 6,000 people and seized at least $12 million—an average of about $2,000 each, according to a ProPublica analysis of state court data.Many were uninsured Heartland patients who were eligible for financial aid that would have eliminated or drastically cut their bills. Instead, they were charged full price for their care, without the deep discounts negotiated by insurers, according to court records, interviews and data provided by Heartland." -- Paul Kiel, ProPublica.org and Chris Arnold, NPR.org