American health care nightmare stories now come one right after another. The current nightmare: suing patients for unpaid bills. NPR reports, “There are no good national data on the practice, but journalists have reported on hospitals suing patients all over the United States…”

Many unpaid bills are small and owed by people with full-time jobs. Many hospitals are rural and serve largely poor populations. In the long term, they need each other to survive, but are reduced to fighting over scraps.

These suits often result in the patients’ wages being garnished, making their already tenuous situation worse. Not surprisingly, the medical journal JAMA reported that Walmart, Wells Fargo, Amazon and Lowe's were the top employers of people whose wages were garnished.

Unpaid bills can also lead to collection firms placing liens on patients’ homes. Earlier this year, NBC reported that Vermont was one of at least six states in which this has happened.

Then there are the many Americans who declare bankruptcy due to medical bills, and those forced to decide between health care and food or rent.

Our response is to fiddle at the edge of the problem. Vermont’s supposed health care “reform” is an “All Payer” system that actually adds another layer of cost. We won’t even talk about the single payer system that former Gov. Shumlin left for dead (but it’s still “on the books”) although reducing cost while providing care for everybody is the opposite of a nightmare.

Lee Russ

Bennington

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