The View From Your Sickbed

by Patrick Appel

A reader writes:

I'm a bankruptcy lawyer, so I'm in one of the two groups that will be hurt by real health care reform (insurance companies being the other). About a third of my clients are in bankruptcy due to medical bills (another third have some medical bills, but it's not what pushed them over the edge). Almost all of them thought their health insurance would cover the problems they had. Many had gone to great lengths ahead of time to make sure their treatment would be covered, only to find out after the fact that their insurance company wouldn't pay. They've heard every excuse in the book (or in the fine print of the policy): experimental treatment, lifetime cap, high deductible, missed deadlines, lack of notification, pre-existing condition and so on. To me, the worst part of the American health care financing system is that you can't tell what your treatment will cost. I know folks who have flown to Pakistan to have operations they couldn't get in the US because nobody in the US (unlike Pakistan!) would agree in writing ahead of time what it would cost them.