Healthcare in the US is broken because it’s too profitable. Corporate America understands that there is money to be made in healthcare, and they are squeezing the system to increase profits everywhere, from insurance to hospitals.
The media is still focused on high drug prices, but they fail to mention that prescription drugs only account for $0.12 of every healthcare dollar spent. The more significant issue is that hospitals acquired by major corporations are squeezing patients and staff to increase profits.
Employers covered 83% of their employees’ self-only insurance plans and 73% of employees’ family insurance plans.KFF
Nurses, who were lifesavers during the peak of the pandemic, are being forced to take positions that don’t pay as much and cut back on hours. One hospital in Florida is writing up nurses who work overtime even if there isn’t adequate staff to cover patients.
Pharmacists, who are in short supply, are being replaced by pharm techs who are paid less at retail and hospitals. To make matters worse, NPR is reporting, “despite growing evidence of the harm caused by medical debt, hundreds of U.S. hospitals maintain policies to aggressively pursue patients for unpaid bills, using tactics such as lawsuits, selling patient accounts to debt buyers, and reporting patients to credit rating agencies, a KHN investigation shows.”
A picture emerges of a minefield for patients where a trip to the hospital can not only produce jaw-dropping bills but also expose patients to legal risks that jeopardize their livelihood. Among the findings:
- More than two-thirds sue patients or take other legal action against them, such as garnishing wages or placing liens on property
- A similar share of the hospitals report patients with outstanding bills to credit rating agencies, putting patients’ credit scores and their ability to rent an apartment, buy a car, or get a job at risk;
- A quarter sell patients’ debts to debt collectors, who in turn can pursue patients for years for unpaid bills;
- About 1 in 5 deny non-emergency care to people with outstanding debt;
- Nearly 40% of all hospitals researched make no information available on their websites about their collection activities, although KHN, in some cases, was able.
Yes, the costs of some prescription drugs are unreasonable, but the press rarely does the in-depth work to understand our overly complicated pricing structure. The real issue is that getting sick in the U.S. is expensive, and a severe problem could wipe out someone’s savings. It’s going to take someone with real courage to fix this problem.