Paying for Coronavirus and Medical Debt

Pearl River     Ten percent of Americans have absolutely, flat-to-the-bone, no health insurance.  Many others have Trump-plan insurance with high deductibles, covering nothing much at all, but maybe catastrophes up to certain lifetime payment levels.  Many of these same people are exactly the people who have to work, rain or shine, not because they are delivering the mail, although those folks are on the job as well, but because they are the underpaid infrastructure of the service economy from health care to food service to almost anything you can name.

Yesterday, one of the consumers at ResCare, a large national company where we represent workers in Lafayette, Baton Rouge, and New Orleans in their community home operations, tested positive for coronavirus.  He’s still in the home, although with others.  Three of our workers are exposed.  There is no personal protective gear other than gloves, and in having forced the company to share their policies, not much of a plan for the consumers or workforce on any deep and serious level.  The minimal health policy the company offers that complies with the Affordable Care Act takes the fully allowable 9% of wages and then requires a deductible of over $4000, which was not capped by Obamacare.  Out of some 250 workers, less than five, and I’m being liberal here, actually participate, yet all of them are barred from the subsidies and supports available on the ACA marketplace, because their company offers something that is called health insurance and in compliance.  We’re on this like white-on-rice, but if any of our workers get the virus, they could be in big trouble.

Testing is free, reportedly, and the stimulus package forces insurers and employers to cover the tests.  Of course, if you hit the doc and don’t have the virus, that’s good news with a but…since you could still owe for the visit and a copay.  If you have it, the treatment will cost you.  The Wall Street Journal estimates low end $1300 out-of-pocket, but with major complications more than $20,000.  You could also have surprise bills of course, because despite bipartisan agreement, the lobbyists managed to sidetrack Congress this year on that problem.  Of course, if these lower waged, essential healthcare workers had managed to sneak onto Medicaid, under the Louisiana expansion, rare in the south, there would be no cost.  In Texas, no such luck, and same for a bunch of other states like Mississippi, Alabama, and the rest.

If they lived through it, welcome to medical debt.  On Wade’s World,  I was talking to an old colleague, Chuck Shuford, who has become an advocate demanding action on medical debt in rural Virginia where he lives now.  He talked about RIPMedicalDebt.org, where he has become involved.  They buy debt for pennies on the dollar.  Churches and others have pitched in to get rid of millions in debt, and they have created a special fund for Appalachia.

That’s a good thing, but for ResCare workers or anyone in the United States, there shouldn’t be any medical debt.  Period.  Why do we allow such a system?  Isn’t the coronavirus teaching us to build a better system?

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