Hospitals are suing their patients

Hospitals are suing their patients

The expansion of Medicaid has provided millions of low-income adults with access to health coverage at little or no cost to themselves or their families. But many working families earn too much to qualify for Medicaid – or live in states that refuse to take advantage of expansion. The rising toll of deductibles, co-pays and other out-of-pocket medical costs is driving many of those families into bankruptcy or the court system. The New York Times’ Sarah Kliff  looks at a troubling trend: the increase in lawsuits filed by hospitals against their patients.

In 2006, only about half of employer-sponsored health plans involved a deductible that workers had to pay out of pocket before their coverage would kick in, according to the nonprofit Kaiser Family Foundation. Today, 82 percent of employers’ health plans have a deductible, and the average amount has nearly tripled, to $1,655 from $584. Low-wage workers are more likely to be offered high-deductible insurance, which is less expensive for employers. Soaring costs are also common for those who buy their own coverage. Plans sold through the Affordable Care Act marketplace can have high caps on out-of-pocket spending: as much as $8,200 for an individual in 2020, and $16,400 for a family.

Kliff’s story focuses on Ballad Health, a hospital system based in northeastern Tennessee and led by former Louisiana health secretary Alan Levine. The hospital filed more than 6,700 medical debt lawsuits last year.


Going underwater on car loans
One in 3 people who traded in an old car for a new one in the first nine months of 2019 ended up with a loan that is worth more than their vehicle – a phenomenon known as “negative equity.” The Wall Street Journal’s AnnaMaria Andriotis and Ben Eisen compare this practice to the zero-down home loans that helped fuel the 2008 financial crisis. Loans that leave borrowers underwater are most common among sub-prime borrowers whose poor credit leaves them paying higher interest rates. 

Rising car prices have exacerbated an affordability gap that is increasingly getting filled with auto debt. Easy lending standards are perpetuating the cycle, with lenders routinely making car loans with low or no down payments that can last seven years or longer. Borrowers are responsible for paying their remaining debt even after they get rid of the vehicle tied to it. 

Mixed news on public schools
Louisiana’s public school report cards were released last week, and state schools Superintendent John White said that 44% of schools are struggling enough that they will have to submit written plans for improvement. As The Advocate’s Will Sentell explains, the results show progress since the report cards were first issued in 2011, but also point to the need for continuing focus on educational equity.

This time 300 of the 571 schools targeted, including 73 that carry a “B” ranking, face scrutiny because of problems with specific groups, like African American students or those with disabilities, and with discipline. In addition, the ranks of “D” and “F” schools have dropped from 44% in 2011 to 23% now, even with more rigorous state standards. In addition, the ranks of “D” and “F” schools have dropped from 44% in 2011 to 23% now, even with more rigorous state standards.

How can we grow wages?
High-paying jobs in the oil industry are gradually giving way to lower-paid employment in service-industry sectors such as retail and tourism. That’s one of the takeaways from a new study by the New Orleans-based Data Center that suggests southeast Louisiana should look for economic development opportunities that are “place-specific and inclusive.” Halle Parker of Houma Today reports

Compared to 2001, there are 6,000 fewer jobs in oil and gas production, from refineries to drilling to surveying, in the region. The prevalence of such high-paying jobs in oil and gas has given many residents in Terrebonne and Lafourche opportunities to work their way out of poverty or low-income status, the study says. … It cites previous studies that suggest a focus on jobs in coastal restoration and water management will play a key role in future employment.

Number of the Day
2.4 million – Number of U.S. military veterans of “immigrant origin” – including 530,000 who were born abroad and 1.9 million who are children of immigrants. (Source: Migration Policy Institute, via Axios)