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Sickness to Debt to Sickness

Americans Are Going Bankrupt From Getting Sick, The Atlantic, 15 March 2019, Olga Khazan

Doc Bills = Bankruptcy

“In April 2016, Venus Lockett was about to give a speech at an event she’d volunteered for near her home in Atlanta. She was already stressed. The previous night, she had stayed up late making her presentation, and then deleted it by mistake. As she stepped up to the podium to give her remarks, she noticed that her words were slurring. She tried to speak into the mic, but the words that came out didn’t make sense.

A friend walked up and grabbed Lockett by the arm. A few people, noticing that something wasn’t right, walked Lockett to another room and called an ambulance. Lockett, who was 57 at the time and uninsured, didn’t know whether she could or should refuse the ambulance ride or decide which hospital it would take her to.”

Through the WI Lens

If you continued reading, you’ll know that Venus had suffered a mini-stroke, made a full recovery, but found herself landed a month later with a $26,000 bill from the hospital – where she had stayed a single night for ‘observation’. “Medical debt is a uniquely American phenomenon, a burden that would be unfathomable in many other developed countries,” the author observes. She examines the causes and consequences of the debts that drive many uninsured people to financial ruin, noting along the way that the costs are often quite arbitrary, while the safety nets designed to catch them – such as Medicare – also operate with a degree of randomness. This raises numerous points:

• Medical debt represents a double whammy to individual wellbeing, with ill health exacerbated by financial problems and the stress that causes.

• This piece emphasises why universal access to healthcare is so important, whether that be through the NHS or other arrangements.

• One of the best things any organization can do to ensure the wellbeing of its employees is to provide health insurance where needed – which may be to fill the gaps in the state system.

• The private sector will increasingly have a role to work alongside the public sector in healthcare – especially in preventative measures – but it must not be allowed to undermine existing provision.

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