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Massachusetts health care — wonky, with a healthy dose of reality

Clueless at the Top -- Romney and Medical Debt

Clueless at the Top -- Romney and Medical Debt

May 18, 2005

Governor Romney's chief health policy advisor, Tim Murphy is quoted in a front page Boston Globe story as berating hospitals for not pursuing more aggressively patients with unpaid medical bills. Murphy describes hospital practices as "passive" and suggests the Governor will address this deficiency in yet to be filed legislation.

Do we need any more evidence why consumers should be cautious about Governor Romney's "reform" intentions in health care?

If Gov. Romney wants to delve into this issue, we hope he will also address hospitals who bill uninsured patients at two to four times the amount they bill private insurers for the same services.

We hope he will address the issue of ability to pay. Right now, co-pays, deductibles, and other cost sharing are imposed on consumers with zero regard for ability to pay. So that $2000 deductible hits families with incomes over $100,000 and under $20,000 equally, but with no regard to their economic circumstances.

We hope the Governor will address employers who are hitting their workers with deductibles now rising as high as $10,000 per year before a penny of insurance coverage kids in, as well as employers who provide not a penny of health coverage to their workers.

As the Globe article mentions, a 1999 study shows that over 90 percent of bad debt was connected with patients who qualify for support from the state's Free Care Pool. These are families struggling to make ends meet, not the "bad actors" Tim Murphy likes to complain about.

Bottom line: medical debt is one of the two largest factors in all personal bankruptcies in the United States. For information on the consequences of medical debt, see this report from the Access Project.

If Governor Romney wants consumers to believe he has a clue what real families are facing, he needs to disassociate himself from these remarks, and fast.