Hospitals in a squeeze

It’s no secret that hospitals in the area are hurting. During the economic downturn, people are putting off elective surgery. The state has cut $73 million in funding for health care and human services. And with people losing their jobs and health care coverage, they’re showing up in emergency rooms for free care, which the hospitals have to absorb.

Even people with health insurance are costing the hospitals money, however. I was checking out a rumor that North Memorial had eliminated more nursing positions (they hadn’t) today, when Robert Prevost, a spokesman for the hospital, told me about the rapidly rising rate of delinquent accounts by people with health insurance.

In 2007, he said, the hospital had over $1 million in unpaid bills by people who had health insurance coverage. In 2008, that number has risen to $8 million.

No interest is added to medical bills, Prevost said, so people who have insurance but may be having financial difficulty, are putting medical bills last in line to be paid. And quite often they’re not paid at all.

  • Paul

    All I can say is there is certain irony in this. If we had a single payer, womb to grave universal health care system, no one would have any reason to not seek health care in an economic downturn. Of course, these hospitals have spent the last 20+ years fighting single payer tooth and nail.

  • T.W. Day

    Insurance companies are in the business of not paying insurance claims. Complicate the mess that hospitals create with their overly obtuse bills with the fact that insurance companies do everything they can to hang on to their money as long as possible and you have people not paying bills because they can’t, because they don’t know what the bill actually is, and because they need to wait for the insurance wrestling match to end so they know what they really need to pay.

    When doctors get behind fixing this idiotic system, it will be fixed. As long as they cater to the insurance mafia, we’re going to have a confused, overpriced, inefficient system that is the laughing stock of the industrialized world.