Effects are incalculable
I would like to thank Jerry Kilcourse for his letter, “Health claims are bogus” (March 19), where he cites two serious omissions in a previous Times Argus story, “Uninsured drop nearly a third.” This was about a Department of Finance survey on the state of health care in Vermont. Mr. Kilcourse referred to two serious omissions from the story. One was the “15.6 percent of Vermonters, or 96,000-plus, had forgone health care due to cost.” The second referred to the dire problem of medical debt, which Vermont has not yet found a way to resolve despite Vermont’s advances in health reform over the years.
“In 2012,” Mr. Kilcourse wrote, “15.1 percent, or 94,000-plus, Vermonters had been contacted by a collection agency for unpaid medical bills.” These numbers are shocking; they just tell the statistical part of this persistent tragedy. As someone who has been one of these “94,000-plus” I well know the nonstatistical side of it.
To be harassed by debt collectors while you are seriously ill or recovering is dehumanizing at best. I learned to never answer the phone unless I recognized the number. I listened to the threats of debt collectors on the voice mail with interest. Despite the claims (all denied claims) that they sought being in dispute and not in delinquency, they still tried to force the money out of me anyway. I often marveled at their arsenal of tricks to intimidate. I sometimes felt like I had been pawned to the medical-industrial complex.
The effects of this are incalculable. They are never factored into any of the surveys attempting to track the extraordinary chaos and cost of our dysfunctional health care non-system. If it was, the true price we pay would be much higher than any survey could measure.
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