I strongly believe that people should help one another and that people are always more important than money. I've become sickened by the lack of compassion and ethics that some companies in this country believe is acceptable.
I ran across a story about a hospital in St. Joseph, Missouri. The hospital is now called Mosaic Life Care and was formerly known as Heartland Regional Medical Center. They are the only hospital in the region so people that need emergency care really have no other choice but to go to them. What they have been doing to their patients without health insurance is atrocious. The whistle blower for what's happened at this non-profit hospital is an investigative journalism piece by Pro Publica; one of the few truly objective, data and fact driven journalism organizations in this country.
I'll link the full story below. Mosaic Life Care (AKA Heartland Regional Medical Center) has been going after the working poor by garnishing their wages when medical bills are unpaid. At first glance this may make sense, however when you start to look at the details, what's really happening, the outcome of their actions is unethical at the very least.
Heartland is consistently suing the working poor that have unpaid bills. They sue them for unpaid medical bills and in most cases win a judgement which allows Heartland to take up to 25% of a person's paycheck; 25% is the federal garnishment cap and the number in itself is staggering. Can you imagine losing 25% of what you've earned each time you get paid and oh yeah, the majority of people in the region of Missouri that Mosaic Life Care serves are far from wealthy and most fall below the median income of what's considered the middle class in this country.
Between 2009 and 2013 Heartland Medical filed lawsuits against more than 11,000 people. I mentioned earlier that they are a non-profit hospital but what I didn't mention is that they are not facing any financial hardships. Last year they reported a profit of 45 million dollars and paid their chief executive 1.2 million dollars.
Non-profit hospitals are exempt from many state and federal taxes, including income tax and property tax. In return for this preferential treatment the hospital agrees to provide free and reduced rate care for people of modest means.
What makes this story even more concerning is that Heartland is not simply asking for the cost of the bill, they are also asking for the cost of the full bill plus 9% interest and attorney and court fees. If you have health care, your provider negotiates a maximum that they will pay the hospital for each and every procedure. But in this situation Heartland is often not offering the lower rate that they would to someone that has health insurance. With an interest of 9% per year a bill of $40,000 for an emergency stay for appendicitis becomes impossible to pay off. An emergency stay for a mental health related issue can't be much cheaper.
Heartland also is not being transparent about aid and write offs that people of low income may qualify for so one could say the system is rigged. So instead of saying to someone that owes them money, "You qualify for financial aid or a write off on your bill so instead of paying $5,000 we can reduce the amount to $500. Would you like to do this?" they are taking them to court for the entire balance. Oh and if you wondered why not enter into a repayment plan with Heartland? From what I've learned from the Pro Publica article, the repayment plans are unreasonable and would place a person in a situation where they may have to choose between feeding their family or paying back the hospital. Put your family in that situation and groceries win every time.
It's stories like these that should be front page headlines and make the top of the hour new cycle but they don't and that is sad. In a land of plenty, so many are taken advantage of. What a sad statement that is.
Please check out the full article at Pro Publica's website or the following link: http://www.propublica.org/article/how-nonprofit-hospitals-are-seizing-patients-wages