Forty-six million Americans are at risk daily. Not members of the military or police, but people who do not have health insurance. According to the Health Affairs Journal, uninsured patients are charged up to 10 times more than insured or government assisted patients for care. In a recent article, Health Affairs listed the top 50 hospitals that engage in the excessive charging practice. Of the 50 hospitals on the list, 5 are right here in Texas. Lake Grandbury Medical Center, South Texas Health System, Dallas Regional Medical Center, Laredo Medical Center, and Texas General Hospital all made the list of hospitals that bill the maximum prices to patients who can afford it least. In some instances, uninsured patients have been charged nearly $20,000 for X-ray images that would only cost insured or government assisted patients $500.00. The term given to this unfair practice is “price gouging”.
Because of the lack of government regulation and the lack of transparent billing practices, hospitals are free to engage in price-gauging.
As a result, uninsured patients face harassment from collection agencies and potentially bankruptcy. There have been successful lawsuits, however, against hospitals, including a major hospital chain in Washington, asserting that plaintiffs have been overpriced for ER treatment, especially when compared with insured or government assisted patients.
In the personal injury realm, the unfortunate reality is that because of the disparity in charges, two individuals who are equally injured and who receive equal compensation from the wrongdoer, may end up with vastly different amounts of compensation. The uninsured victim is required to pay back significantly more than the insured victim.