Americans are increasingly paying for health care not once, not twice, but three times.
It has to stop.
They pay for public-sector health care, which many in the private sector can't use, so they also pay for private insurance. But more and more, we learn that it won't cover some major medical expenses. So they have to pay for health care out of their own pocket.
That we pay for two systems in our country – public and private – is the way we have agreed to do things to make sure the poor, the elderly and the least among us can get medical treatment.
That we are paying for it a third time – that's when it is time for lawmakers to intervene.
One recent example of this triple whammy is attempts by large insurers such as Anthem to deny payment for emergency room care that was ultimately determined not to be an emergency. In other words, if you thought you were having a heart attack, but it turns out you weren't after running expensive tests, well ... better luck next time. Oh, and here's a bill for thousands of dollars.
Both Claire McCaskill and Roy Blunt, Missouri's U.S. senators, also have promised to look into the staggering bills some Missourians are receiving because insurance will not always cover air ambulance transports.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch has been telling the stories of these people, such as that of Ben Millheim, who fell during a camping trip in 2016. He was having seizures and bleeding from the brain and was airlifted 100 miles to St. Louis.
He is now fine, but because the air ambulance was out of network, the family got a $32,000 bill and have exhausted all appeals to Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield.
"The whole reason for having insurance is to cover this type of stuff," the dad said.
McCaskill said she also wants to know why the cost of air ambulance coverage in the country has doubled in the past four years, from around $15,000 to $30,000 per transport.
Please understand that we are grateful for the lifesaving work these teams do, but patients need help.
"This financial burden being placed on insured consumers appears to be driven in large part by the inability or unwillingness of some private health insurance providers and air ambulance providers to agree on terms for reimbursement," McCaskill noted in a letter last week to nine health insurance and air ambulance companies. "While the importance of robust air ambulance service for patients in emergency situations cannot be overstated, particularly for patients in rural communities, the costs for these services are rising at an alarming rate."
"No family should be financially devastated by a medical emergency," Blunt told the St. Louis paper in an email.
Let's hope they can help.
Missourians who already are paying for public-sector coverage and private insurance shouldn't get slammed again.
– Joplin Globe