“Nonprofit” hospitals are raking

“Nonprofit” hospitals are raking

America spends more on health care, as a percentage of its economy, than any other country in the world and gets middling results. Nowhere is this more obvious than in the hospital industry, which is thriving financially at a time when many of their patients are drowning in medical debt. Kaiser Health News’ Noam N. Levey reports from Dallas-Ft. Worth, home to the two counties with the highest concentrations of medical debt among large metro areas: 

Overall, about a third of the 100 million adults in the U.S. with health care debt owe money for a hospitalization, according to a poll conducted by KFF for this project. Close to half of those owe at least $5,000. About a quarter owe $10,000 or more. Many are pursued by collectors when they can’t pay their bills or hospitals sell the debt. “The fact is, if you walk into a hospital today, chances are you are going to walk out with debt, even if you have insurance,” said Allison Sesso, chief executive of RIP Medical Debt, a nonprofit that buys debt from hospitals and debt collectors so patients won’t have to pay it.

The New York Times’ Jessica Silver-Greenburg and Katie Thomas report on how Providence, one of the nation’s largest nonprofit hospital chains, trained employees to wring out as much money as possible from patients, even ones that qualified for free care because of their low incomes: 

Training materials instructed administrative staff to tell patients — no matter how poor — that “payment is expected,” according to documents included in Washington’s lawsuit and training materials obtained by The Times. Six current and former hospital employees said in interviews that they had been told not to mention the financial aid that states like Washington required Providence to provide. One training document, titled “Don’t accept the first No,” led staff through a series of questions to ask patients. The first was “How would you like to pay that today?” If that did not work, employees were told to ask for half the balance. 

White House spotlights hunger
More than 1 in 10 American households experienced food insecurity in 2021, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. A White House anti-hunger conference on Wednesday – the first of its kind in more than 50 years – focused on policies included in a 44-page report released earlier this week. The Washington Post’s Matt Viser reports on the consequences of our country’s unhealthy state and the policies that should be implemented to reverse these disparaging trends. 

The pervasiveness of diet-related diseases creates broader problems for the country, White House officials said, hampering military readiness, workforce productivity, academic achievement and mental health. Among the specific policies Biden previously promised: expanding free school meals to 9 million more children in the next decade; improving transportation options for an estimated 40 million Americans who have low access to grocery stores or farmers markets; reducing food waste (one-third of all food in the United States goes uneaten, the White House says); conducting more screenings for food insecurity; educating health-care providers on nutrition; reducing sodium and sugar in U.S. food products; addressing marketing that promotes fast food, sugary drinks, candy and unhealthful snacks; and building more parks in “nature-deprived communities.”

Don’t punish kids for Louisiana’s failings
Nearly 20 years ago state leaders promised to reform Louisiana’s
antiquated and brutal juvenile justice system. Yet children in custody in the
state are still being held in unconscionable conditions and some are being moved to adult prisons, a sign that the promise to take a more therapeutic approach to reform has failed. Unfortunately, as former and current New Orleans Saints Malcolm Jenkins and Demario Davis explain, children are being punished for the failings of elected officials, something that must change. The two offer a better path forward. 

Instead, the state must commit to immediately changing the policies, protocols and culture of (Office of Juvenile Justice) facilities. And if the state agency charged with caring for court-involved youth cannot keep children safe, those children should be returned to their families and communities and surrounded by supportive services dedicated to their success. Louisiana’s children and everyone in this state deserve so much more than what OJJ and the state are doing. Louisiana teens deserve safe and healthy childhoods, regardless of mistakes they make. On behalf of our children, our communities and our future, we must demand better from our state leaders.

Teacher pipeline problem
The Covid-19 pandemic has been tough on teachers, who struggle with low pay and increasingly have found themselves at the center of the nation’s new culture wars. As a result, a massive teacher shortage has swept across the nation, including in Louisiana. But the struggle to attract college students to the profession began before the pandemic because many of the negative factors, like low pay, that make teaching unattractive have been around for decades. Pew’s Katherine Schaeffer examines the pipeline problem among our nations’ educators: 

In 2019-20, the most recent year with available data, colleges and universities conferred 85,057 bachelor’s degrees in education, about 4% of the more than 2 million total degrees issued that year. That was down 19% from 2000-01, when colleges and universities issued more than 105,000 bachelor’s degrees in education, or roughly 8% of all undergraduate degrees. The decrease is even more pronounced when looking at the longer term. During the 1970-71 school year, education was the most popular field for U.S. undergraduates. Colleges and universities issued 176,307 bachelor’s degrees in education that year, or 21% of all degrees conferred.

Number of the Day
20% – Percentage of teachers in Louisiana that are in their 20s, tied for the third-highest in the nation. (Source: Pew)