Medical debt and the threat of personal bankruptcy for unaffordable healthcare have surfaced as headlines in the recent mass shooting in Aurora, Colorado. Whatever the gunman’s intentions were, he likely did not mean to call attention to the tragedy that this country’s citizens face if they survive an encounter with the for-profit medical-industrial complex. The media is now reporting that many of the victims of the shooting were uninsured and that they face catastrophic medical debt for the unaffordable healthcare they received at local Colorado hospitals. Knowing that any uninsured family would face personal bankruptcy for their unaffordable healthcare, three of the five hospitals that treated the victims have agreed to waive or limit the victim’s medical bills. Fundraising efforts are underway to rescue these families from financial ruin.
The victims of the Aurora shooting will get help from these fundraising efforts–and the public relations moves of the local hospitals–to cover their medical debt. But when the headlines move to other subjects, these families will face expensive long-term rehabilitative care. Will the Aurora victims face personal bankruptcy as a natural consequence of receiving life-saving healthcare for their injuries?
Most of the victims of the shooting were young, the class of people that is most likely uninsured for healthcare. According to one study, approximately one in three Colorado citizens are uninsured or underinsured for medical debt, and these numbers are growing.
If a mass shooting were to occur in Florida, the damage would be greater. According to data from the Kaiser Family Foundation, 21% of Florida citizens are completely uninsured for medical care, compared to Colorado’s 14%.
I have previously written on this blog that medical debt is a major cause of personal bankruptcy in our country. In our Central Florida community, I help families with surviving their medical debts, even as I watch the wealth accumulate for healthcare corporations. In September 2010, when I wrote my last post on this subject, hospital profits for Orlando hospitals were surging.
This trend has continued.
Last summer, the Orlando Business Journal reported that profits for Central Florida hospitals grew 24% to $357,600,000. Last month, the Journal reported figures that included HCA, the US’s largest hospital holding company, which owns two central Florida hospitals. For 2012, Orlando area hospitals enjoyed a profit of $678,500,000.00 during the first quarter of 2012, an increase of 85% over their profits for last year’s first quarter. Hospitals spend these profits to support their medical “arms race,” as they compete with each other to provide luxury hotel-like accommodations, and the latest in medical technology.
Medical costs sky rocket, and citizens pay with increased insurance expenses and medical debts for their growing deductibles. Those without insurance will suffer personal bankruptcy for medical debts that can never be repaid in a life time. So, in the summer of 2012, I am still asking: can’t we find a way to care for our sick and injured without sending them to bankruptcy court?