Here Comes Trouble: Stories from My Life

"Outstanding…Moore Triumphs! Publishers Weekly

Mike & Friends Blog

Donna Smith

Donna Smith, American SiCKO, is executive director of the Health Care for All Colorado Foundation

March 8th, 2010 4:41 PM

What Patients Deserve to Know: Even Vegas has to Publish Its Odds

Since millions of American patients face medical debt they didn’t know they’d have – and many if not most of them purchased insurance to protect against that debt – it seems logical to me that patients should be fully informed up front of the financial risks they are taking on when they seek medical care. Doctors and others providers should publish and post in their offices their methods of debt collection and the numbers of patients they sue in an average practice year. They can put the disclosures of medical debt collection practices right next to the little signs that tell patients they must pay their co-pays prior to receiving medical care.

I shared the idea with my University of Chicago educated son, and he liked it. He said, “Even Vegas has to disclose the odds of winning.” True enough. Even those who love the market economy like to know as much as possible about their financial entanglements before they enter them.

Disclosure. Disclosure. Disclosure. (Much like the old real estate advice – location, location, location.) Financial. Debt collection practices. Health condition outcomes.

So, along with the releases and privacy statements and risk assignment forms I must sign before I am accepted as a patient, providers should also publish their outcomes evidence as well. How am I to know if a given provider is just good buddies with the referring physicians or if they truly have a success record with the condition for which I require care?

I’d feel better about reform that promised those things than I do about a reform measure that simply forces me to purchase the defective financial product sold as private health insurance. Private health insurance is marketed to me to protect my health and wealth, and yet it may or may not do either. It’s a crap shoot.

Did you know some medical providers in Pennsylvania go to what’s known as “collectors’ universities” to learn how to collect their medical debt from the families of deceased patients? They study two legal documents offered by the collection experts: the “Doctrine of Necessities” and “Collecting from the Deceased.” Ouch. Imagine that after your loved one’s for-profit private insurance company fails to pay all the bills when a child or spouse or parent dies. And Pennsylvania providers are no different than many others around the nation. Collecting medical debt is big, big business.

So regardless of what this Congress does or what this President celebrates in the Rose Garden framed by the billowing cherry blossoms, I’ll still be slugging it out in the front offices of providers, at the admissions desks in hospitals and at the pharmacy counters to try to secure the care I need and pay for. Nothing has been done to improve my chances of getting what I bargained for as a patient. I am to accept on good faith what the providers secure as a legal guarantee from me.

I want a single standard of high quality care through progressive financing. I want to be able to choose the care that is high quality. I simply cannot do that unless and until my rights as a patient are protected. And we are a long way away from that day. Under an improved Medicare for all system, I would be saved from the terrible loop that is the medical collection system in this nation. I’d still want to know health outcomes data, but that would be far easier to obtain and track. Wow, imagine that.

Should gamblers playing slot machines really be given the legal right to know pay-out odds in a nation that thinks patients have no right to knowledge of results expected from their medical care providers? Surely, reputable providers could not object to that sort of patient or citizen empowerment. But wait. A lawyer friend of mine from Colorado tells me that hospitals and many doctors could hardly be less cooperative in talking about this topic. Big surprise.

The day will come when patients will be the center of this debate. It has not come yet. This Congress and this administration have never put our interests first, so this effort was flawed from the start. Because the improvements I need to see as a patient are nowhere to be found in this mess, I understand why people lose interest in the fight. The disconnect between what we need and what we are getting from this round of health reform effort as patients and as citizens is a chasm too deep.

You must log in to comment.

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Log in | Register

FBI Uncovers Al-Qaeda Plot To Just Sit Back And Enjoy Collapse Of United States www.theonion.com WASHINGTON—The FBI announced today that it has uncovered a...

Apr 15th
3:28 PM
Read More

Revealed: Rahm Emanuel's top donor bought stock in Marriott just before it was awarded huge contract pando.com As schools are closed and pensions cut,...

Apr 9th
2:00 PM
Read More

I'll be at First Time Fest today in New York City at the screening of my first film, Roger & Me. Loews Village 7 at 12:30 pm. Come see it on the big...

Apr 5th
9:48 AM
Read More

Revealed: Rahm Emanuel cuts public pensions, diverts money to benefit campaign donors pando.com If you've read the financial news out of Chicago the last...

Apr 4th
2:19 PM
Read More

Please take a moment today to think of Casey Austin Sheehan, son of Cindy and Patrick, who was murdered by U.S. foreign policy in Sadr City, Baghdad ten years...

Apr 4th
2:00 PM
Read More

ICYMI - I've joined this "thunderclap" to support the Connecticut legislators who voted yes on last year's Act Concerning Gun Violence...

Apr 3rd
7:38 PM
Read More

I've joined this "thunderclap" to support the Connecticut legislators who voted yes on last year's Act Concerning Gun Violence Prevention...

Apr 2nd
8:27 PM
Read More

I am opposed to the death penalty, but to every rule there is usually an exception, and in this case I hope the criminals at General Motors will be arrested...

Apr 1st
3:55 PM
Read More

How Long Some in the US Will Survive Under New Health Law ...by Donna Smith www.michaelmoore.com Those who must access care to live and can afford it are not...

Mar 31st
10:13 PM
Read More

Last night, The Good Wife on the East Coast started 40 minutes late due to the overrun of the NCAA basketball game. If you had your DVR set for the show, you...

Mar 24th
5:41 PM
Read More

Watching films today, looking for the ones I'm going to pick for my film festival this summer. I (and a whole bunch of others!) have this thing we put on...

Mar 23rd
4:48 PM
Read More

When the U.S. Health Care System Keeps Killing, Who Cares Enough to Fight? ...by Donna Smith www.michaelmoore.com We have largely forgotten that people are at...

Mar 21st
5:56 PM
Read More

Tell the White House not to give up on Dr. Vivek Murthy's nomination as Surgeon General despite the ferocious opposition from the NRA: Don't give...

Mar 21st
5:38 PM
Read More

This criminal would never see a jail cell, nor would his cronies. In fact, they'd later be rewarded with re-election: Presidential Address on War with...

Mar 19th
9:40 PM
Read More

The crime of the century -- our invasion & slaughter in Iraq -- started 11 years ago tonite in this 7pm (ET) hour, March 19th, 2003: CNN Coverage of...

Mar 19th
9:08 PM
Read More

Washington’s Back-to-the-Future Military Policies in Africa ...by Nick Turse www.michaelmoore.com Nick Turse is an award-winning journalist, historian,...

Mar 17th
4:59 PM
Read More

"I think democracy is the most revolutionary thing in the world." -- Tony Benn, 1925-2014 Tony Benn in 'Sicko'

Mar 14th
10:07 AM
Read More

RIP Tony Benn, one of the UK's greatest leaders: Tony Benn, veteran Labour politician, dies aged 88 www.theguardian.com Former cabinet minister died at...

Mar 14th
9:53 AM
Read More

Please read this important story from K. Ford K.: Am I the Face of the New American Middle Class? www.huffingtonpost.com I began to feel I had slipped so low...

Mar 13th
2:24 PM
Read More

Yesterday Dianne Feinstein revealed that the CIA has been spying on the Senate Intelligence Committee. This is all about the report the committee has produced...

Mar 12th
6:48 PM
Read More

Health Care for All Colorado has brought Mercy Killers, a show written and performed by Michael Milligan about our murderous for-profit healthcare system, to...

Mar 10th
1:08 PM
Read More

Health Care Dramas that Sting and Why We Have to Watch ...by Donna Smith www.michaelmoore.com The realities Milligan has written into the show cut deep into...

Mar 10th
1:02 PM
Read More

Did you know the Lehrer Newshour on PBS has been produced for 20 years by a company owned by conservative cable billionaire John Malone? Me neither. After...

Mar 7th
8:39 PM
Read More

Mr. Obama, if int’l law is so damn crucial . . . | RootsAction.org act.rootsaction.org The Russian intervention deserves criticism. But let’s be clear. The...

Mar 6th
1:21 PM
Read More

Enron billionaire John Arnold thinks everyone should believe him when he says we've got to cut pensions because he's so incredibly rich: John...

Mar 5th
4:20 PM
Read More

More in David Sirota's continuing series on the billionaire takeover of PBS: More PBS conflict woes as activists move to eject David Koch from board of...

Mar 3rd
12:35 PM
Read More

Ukraine: One ‘Regime Change’ Too Many? ...by Ray McGovern www.michaelmoore.com Is “regime change” in Ukraine the bridge too far for the neoconservative...

Mar 2nd
9:25 PM
Read More

Latest from David Sirota on Enron billionaire John Arnold smuggling anti-pension propaganda into "neutral" institutions like PBS and now, the...

Mar 1st
12:58 PM
Read More

Second Guessing a Life: US Health Care System Robs Security and Human Dignity ...by Donna Smith michaelmoore.com The dysfunction of the US health care system...

Feb 27th
1:40 PM
Read More

Subscribe to Mike's Blog RSS

Click here to suggest an article

Mike's Blog

See More Blogs

Vew the archives

View older articles