Sunday, May 18, 2008

The Double Wammy for New Jersey Residents without Health Insurance

A measure sponsored by Senator Loretta Weinberg, which would limit the amount hospitals may charge certain uninsured patients for inpatient and outpatient care was unanimously approved today by the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee.

Weinberg said she understands hospitals are struggling, but they cannot be allowed to make-up in lost profit on the uninsured, especially she says when these men and women are the least able to pay. Senator Weinberg's bill, S1797, would cap hospital bills for uninsured patients at no more than 15% above the Federal Medicare charge. The bill also calls upon the Department of Health and Human Services to develop a sliding fee scale, based on family income, which would be used to determine reasonable costs for hospital services.

In order to qualify for these set fees, residents' income would have to be less than 500% of the Federal poverty level, which is currently $21,200 for a family of 4 (500% of which is $106,000), said Senator Weinberg.

As someone who has been a victim of this fraud I applaud Senator Weinberg, who has shown herself to be a true blue progressive. Bills are high enough in hospitals when one has insurance, but when you don't the bills pile up at insurmountable proportions. I had surgery after a car accident that was a very serious situation. Within days my bills were passing the $75,000 dollar mark. With no ability to pay (I was in law school) and because I sacrificed my health insurance for food and books I was up the creek. Two years later, poverty stricken throughout law school I finally won a lawsuit to pay the bills.

But, the unfairness in charging someone who does not have health insurance more for their health care shocks the conscience. How many different issues could universal health care actually solve? It would be an interesting list to compile.

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