Tag Archives: medical bills

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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Credit Scores and Healthcare Bills

Little Rock       If you have every tried to borrow money from a bank or buy a house, you have been introduced to the strange and terrible world of credit scores that are often key factors not only in whether or not you get the loan or are able to buy the house, but in the interest rates you are offered which translates into thousands and sometimes tens of thousands of dollars you will end up paying over the life of the loan.   Way too frequently confronting the reasons black marks appear on your credit scores goes back to disputes, where you were convinced you were being ripped off and fought back and whether you won or lost you find only when seeking a loan that you were still knifed in the back by the rouge bill collector anyway.   Too often this happens with medical bills which after an illness come flying at you from every direction it seems and invariably from outfits that you never realized even knew your name, but now are billing you, calling you, and so forth.  Anesthesiologists must be the worst offenders since you met your doctor so have no clue who might be the guy is who is billing you for hundreds of bucks while you were out cold.

In a significant development reported by the New York Times, a major credit card score generator, VantageScore Solutions, “has decided to ignore collection actions on credit reports – more than half of which are typically tied to medical debts – as long as the collections are paid.”  That seems exactly right!  The example in the story involved a woman who was going to pay $33,000 in extra interest on a home loan because she had mistakenly used her dental card rather than her medical card to pay a $700 charge.  She fixed it when her mistake became known and paid with the right card, but meanwhile was burned on her credit score she only found out later when it bumped her interest rate up.  Bam!

I can relate.  A couple of months ago, running to pay off my bills before going out of town, I threw the envelopes in the mail to Cox Cable and to CitiMortgage where I’m still paying a note on a fishing camp lost to Katrina 7 years ago.  A month later I got a foreclosure notice from CitiMortgage, even though I had paid the next month, and had ignored several of their envelopes when I returned home assuming the letters had crossed in the mail with my check.  I called them with fire breathing out of my nostrils.  They claimed they had never gotten the payment.  I told them the date it was sent.  I thought we worked it out at the end of the argument when we agreed I would stop payment on the earlier check and send them a new one.  If they got it right away, she claimed she would not report me to the credit bureau.  There was discussion of where the sun doesn’t shine.

A couple of days later someone from Citi left a phone message at the house that they had deposited my hundred dollars.  The same day a letter came in from Cox returning the check to CitiMortgage which they could not deposit.  Ok, you are with me now.  I had put the wrong checks in the wrong envelopes.  Then I got my monthly payment notice from CitiMortgage showing a random $100 they had applied to principal payment and a late charge.

Yep, back on the 800# fired up again.  Citi explained that it is their policy to cash any and all checks that come to them no matter who they are written to.  Fortunately Cox Cable and most other businesses, and even banks, don’t have such a ravenous practice.  I said you can’t have it both ways by taking my money, depositing it wrongfully, and sending me a late charge.  After she talked to her boss, they waived the late charge.  I let them keep the money though they offered to return it, since they were busted.

Mistakes happen.  That’s why we have “I’m sorry” as part of our common language.  When we’re wrong we make it right.  Unfortunately, when they are wrong, they make us pay.  VantageScore Solutions needs to be the model here for stopping these quick trigger credit and corporate culprits.

Credit Scores Audio Blog

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