The nation should see itself reflected in Butler County’s medical problems

Friday, August 23, 2019

The Washington Post ran an article last weekend on Poplar Bluff.

It wasn’t about the new jobs that have been celebrated in recent weeks, or the infrastructure improvements that community leaders with vision believe will help propel the area to new prosperity.

It was about ‘The follow-up appointment,’ or the place where people with medical debt find themselves all too often — the courtroom.

More than 35 percent of people in Butler County have unpaid medical debt on their credit report, about double the national rate, writer Eli Saslow recounted.

Saslow visited with some of the 19 people called to court on the Wednesday he attended Butler County Courthouse’s “debt and collections” day. There were another 34 cases scheduled the following week, and 22 the week after, he wrote.

Attorneys for medical providers said they came seeking fair payment for services they had provided, while some patients’ told the court they could pay only $20 a month on bills that topped hundreds and thousands of dollars.

Saslow detailed the case of 31-year-old Gail Dudley, a Goodwill clerk with Type 1 diabetes. Dudley told the reporter a trip to the E.R. to stabilize her blood sugar left her with $3,000 in bills, after insurance.

She was able to negotiate a payment plan, which will take her more than five years to pay off at $60 a month.

That’s before Dudley tries to pay for any other medical costs or medication expenses on her take-home of $11 an hour. Dudley, like many, said she has tried to stretch her insulin or delay care to avoid more costs.

In Dudley’s neighborhood north of downtown, Saslow wrote, many of her family members and other residents are facing similar problems.

He spoke to local attorney Daniel Moore, who says he always advises residents to fight collection calls, and described itemized receipts where $23.62 was charged for two ibuprofen pills or $838 for a pregnancy test.

Meanwhile, rural hospitals in communities like Piedmont and Doniphan have been forced to close, leaving residents with long drives to emergency care.

“… many of the nation’s 2,000 rural hospitals have begun to buckle under bad debt, with more than 100 closing in the past decade and hundreds more on the brink of insolvency as they fight to squeeze whatever money they’re owed from patients who don’t have it,” Saslow tells readers.

The conditions described in this article may have surprised our community, but perhaps it was more because this was spotlighted at a national level, than because it is actually happening.

We hear the words health care and crisis all the time, from news reports like this, from medical professionals, from patients in need of care, from political parties — really from anyone who has ever needed medical care or provided medical care.

What we haven’t heard, amongst all the noise, are cross-the-aisle, find-the-middle-ground solutions.

This isn’t a problem that can be solved in sound bites or on campaign platforms.

The best idea is just as good as the worst idea, if you’re the only one who believes in it.

This problem is bigger than any one person or party. Until we’re willing to admit that, do we really stand a chance?

—Daily American Republic

Read the full article here: https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/the-follow-up-appointment/2019/08/17/1be...

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