Hospital workers acting as predatory debt collectors is the inevitable result of mixing profit and healthcare.

By Nathan J. Robinson, Current Affairs

There are some things more morally reprehensible than lying to and stealing from sick poor people. But the list isn’t very long. Taking advantage of desperate ill people and extracting their every last dime in order to enrich yourself is pretty high on the list of things that should rightly send you to Hell.

covid-19 patient in hospital on breathing machine

The New York Times recently had a jaw-dropping investigative report on how certain “nonprofit” hospitals have stolen from their patients, deliberately misleading people who were eligible for free care into thinking they had to pay for it, and having private debt collectors hound people relentlessly over their medical bills. The report focused on the hospital chain Providence, which was ruthless in extracting money from patients, to the point where it actually misled people into thinking they owed money when they were in fact eligible for free care under state law. The stories the Times compiles are devastating:

“Harriet Haffner-Ratliffe, 20, gave birth to twins at a Providence hospital in Olympia, Wash., in 2017. She was eligible under state law for charity care. Providence did not inform her. Instead it billed her almost $2,300. The hospital put her on a roughly $100-a-month payment plan. It was more than Ms. Haffner-Ratliffe, who was unemployed, could afford. She had to ration gas for her car. One day, her boyfriend walked into their apartment and found her surrounded by bills, crying. When she fell behind on the payments, Providence dispatched a debt collector to pursue her.”

Providence hired the consulting firm McKinsey & Co (who else?) and assigned them to figure out how to maximize the money collected from patients. McKinsey introduced a program called “Rev-Up” (rev for revenue) and soon administrators were crouching at patients’ bedsides asking them to “empty their wallets.” McKinsey quoted Martin Luther King, Jr.’s line, “If it falls your lot to be a street sweeper, sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures.” In this case, though, McKinsey helped the hospital chain siphon money from sick people like Michelangelo painted pictures. The corporate culture soon became grotesque:

“On Halloween at one of Providence’s hospitals, an employee dressed up as a wrestler named Rev-Up Ricky, according to the Washington lawsuit. Another costume featured a giant cardboard dollar sign with “How” printed on top of it, referring to the way the staff was supposed to ask patients how, not whether, they would pay.”

Read More