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The Doctors discuss whether medical debt should be dealt with differently than traditional debt with creditors’ rights attorney Randall Lindley and consumer protection attorney Peter Holland.
Just this year, 137 million Americans have faced financial hardship due to medical costs, and many go into debt. In some states, the patient can be sued by hospitals, doctors or ambulance services.
ER physician Dr. Travis Stork says he feels if you buy an item like a car, you know ahead of time how much it will cost, and what your payments will be. He feels if you are unable to make the payments you agreed to ahead of time, there should be consequences. But in the case of a medical emergency, he notes the costs, which may include the ambulance fee, the hospital costs or doctor's fees, cannot be predicted. "The charges are inexplicably high at times... and certain individuals go into medical debt, in some cases astronomical sums, which to me is different than when you go take out a loan to buy a car," he explains. Adding, "You should never go to prison for that," referencing how in some states a failure to appear in court for medical debt can lead to jail time.
Randall feels there is no difference between medical debt and other types of debt and says, "Once you're talking about a debt, people have agreed to pay for the service or they're obligated to pay for the service, based on the service being rendered, and they have to pay for the fair value."
Dr. Travis feels a major part of the issue is the lack of cost transparency within the healthcare system and he notes how the system is most often financially harder on people who make less money.
Peter says he does feel medical debt should be treated differently, noting often a patient will not know the price of the services they will need prior to having them. He also takes issue with the surprise cost increases that can occur with the healthcare system. He also notes that 1 in 3 families in America reportedly do not have any type of savings, and will most likely not be able to afford a major health cost, which could lead to jail time for some.