Medical bills are a major cause of bankruptcy.
That is why we continue to follow the issue of medical debt in this blog. In our September 13 post, for example, we discussed how the advent of health insurance exchanges under the Affordable Care Act could affect decisions to file bankruptcy.
After all, as we pointed out, there are about 6 million Texans who do not have health insurance – and are therefore one catastrophic accident or serious illness away from potential problems with medical bills.
In this post, we will take note of how hospital bills continue to go up, putting ever-more strain on ordinary families from medical debt.
Earlier this year, in Time magazine, a journalist named Steven Brill took direct aim at exposing the convoluted and deeply unfair pricing systems used by many hospitals. Brill’s sharply worded piece was called “Bitter Pill: Why Medical Bills Are Killing Us.”
Of course, he meant the word “kill” figuratively, not literally. But the strident language was understandable, given how the ongoing and unsustainable escalation of prices in today’s hospitals impacts individuals and families.
Even if someone only spends one day in the hospital, the cost is an average of in excess of $4,000. Comparative data indicates that this is about five times as much as in some other developed countries.
To be sure, patients – or someone acting on their behalf – may be able to negotiate lower prices for certain procedures. But hospitals tend to begin such negotiations from what seem like absurdly high starting points. For example, even something as simple as closing a wound with a few stitches typically involves a bill of several thousand dollars.
Source: The New York Times, “As Hospital Prices Soar, a Stitch Tops $500,” Elisabeth Rosenthal, Dec. 2, 2013