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Health and Wealth - Blather. Rants. Repeat.
A Møøse once bit my sister ...
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Health and Wealth

Nurse Jackie ended its long run this past weekend with a mixed-bag of an episode; lots of sad goodbyes, returning cameos, and an unfortunately Sopranos-like "did she or didn't she die?" final scene. But the season-long arc that closed the place was straight from the non-fiction medical section: a public hospital going private in the worst of ways, being turned into luxury condos.

Last week's Obamacare decision brought much of this struggle to top of mind- opponents complained about predicted staggering premium increases, while supporters highlighted the ACA's with-teeth methods to reduce fraud and overcharging in the healthcare industry.  It still boggles that medicine has become the height of capitalism: the Catholic hospital I was born in, just like the fictional All Saints' of Jackie's world, came from a heritage of being run by nuns, not CEOs.  Now the nuns are on the run and these facilities are expected to compete, Old Fashioned American Style!

Last week also brought this piece in a local alt-paper, about the changing fortunes of the air ambulance business. Most of us here recognize the name Mercy Flight, which like others of its name in this country traces its roots to the military rather than the religious:

Air ambulance services were slowly implemented nationwide in the aftermath of the Vietnam War, as pilots and medics in the habit of saving lives found civilian applications. (For the first time in its 34-year existence, Mercy Flight no longer has pilots with experience in Vietnam—they’ve all retired.) But the service has since become a money-maker for hospitals and companies able to charge exorbitant fees, because who can put a price on a service that may save life or limb? The skies are becoming increasingly crowded.

A recent New York Times investigation reported that the number of medical helicopter programs in the US has skyrocketed since 2000, led by the Colorado-based corporation Air Methods. Last year Air Methods recorded $1 billion in revenue, or about 30 percent of the market share nationally for medevac services.

Information included in the Times piece and corroborated by materials provided by Mercy Flight show that other medevac companies charge upwards of $50,000 for a transport, roughly three times the amount charged on average by Mercy Flight. If patients are unable to pay, Air Methods has been known to file suit or place liens against a patient’s personal assets, including their homes—something that makes Doug Baker visibly ill at ease when the topic surfaces.


Baker is the founder of the local Mercy Flight operation, whose compassion on the financial end compares to the Best Care Anywhere that its fleet provides on the medical side.    His non-profit sold off its ground fleet 20 years ago to another institutional parasite- Rural Metro, which bids nationally for city and county ambulance contracts year-round (including in much of this area), and does it for the almighty dollar (it's been owned by a hedge fund since 2011 and has been in Chapter 11 since 2013).

A number of my bankruptcy filings include bills for ambulance services, and they can be among the most ruthless of creditors even after cases are filed.  Somewhere in this process, "First, do no harm" has gotten lost in the paper shuffle- and that's sad.
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yesididit From: yesididit Date: July 3rd, 2015 09:54 pm (UTC) (Link)
i've heard that the main cause of bankruptcies are for medical bills. and i can tell you that without insurance, my medical bills were more than what i pay for my mortgage every month. i racked up $26,000 in medical debt over two years when i was on COBRA, and then was unable to get insurance when the COBRA ran out. i was willing to pay! nobody would cover me because of pre-existing condition bullshit. when i finally got SSDI and medicare, it was a huge relief.

so with obama doing away with the denying people for pre-existing conditions, he will be my hero forever, just for that alone.

i've had to fight and argue with my drs office because they wanted to do an expensive, not-covered by insurance, and totally unnecessary procedure on me. and they HOUNDED me about it! calling repeatedly, sending letters, stressing the urgency of having this procedure done. except my test results were normal. absolutely ZERO reason for that procedure. at one point while the nurse was desperately trying to convince me to schedule this $400 procedure, i asked her if she was going to pay for it. that shut her up momentarily. well, more like it confused her into silence for a few seconds. i finally threatened a harassment lawsuit against them if they didnt drop the matter. and its never been brought up since.
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