Canadian Skier’s Hospital Bill Puts American Costs in Spotlight

This is indeed a very tragic story. Sadly, the practice of billing out “chargemaster rates” to one group of people to subsidize other contracts which hospitals voluntarily enter in to is discriminatory, and punishes one class of people to help another class. 

There are ways to negotiate for medical bills. Your best position is when you negotiate up front, but it can also be done after the fact. I wish this family would contact me, so I could help them!

Wedall Potter mentions medical bankruptcies, but what he misses is the fact the most medical bankruptcies occur as a result of lost income during a lengthy illness, rather than out of pocket medical costs to fund deductibles etc.

Steve Morgan mentions in this story that uninsured Americans have no bargaining power. This may be true, but it doesn’t mean that they have no options. They certainly do have the ability to get a substantial reduction in the cost of care is they know how to navigate the system.

MediBid has been helping Canadians on a medical waiting list get timely medical care for many years now. We’ve also been helping Canadians find affordable options, whcih don’t break the back, or make them lost their house. Just recently we were able to arrange for triple bypass surgery for a Canadian in a major US hospital at a cost of $14,000. The billed rate for such a procedure is $134,000 or more, and while $14,000 is a large sum of money, it is better than waiting a year or more to get the care in Canada.

Americans put their health-care costs in spotlight after flap over skier Sarah Burke’s hospital bill

By Steve Mertl     National Affairs Contributor

The whopping medical bill faced by the family of Canadian freestyle skier Sarah Burke, who died from a head injury while practising at Park City, Utah, has triggered a spasm of embarrassment among Americans over their health-care system.

Burke, of Squamish, B.C., died at a Salt Lake City hospital nine days after crashing on the half-pipe course at Park City. The accident tore a vertebral artery in her neck, causing bleeding into her brain.

Her care wasn’t covered by competitor insurance provided by the Canadian Freestyle Ski Association because the Park City event was unsanctioned.

That left Burke’s family with a bill initially estimated at $550,000, later revised downward to around $200,000, some of which will be covered by B.C. Medicare.

Burke’s husband, Rory Bushfield, also set up a web site to solicit donations, while the event’s sponsor, drink-maker Monster Energy Co., belatedly promised to assist the family.

But the Salt Lake City Tribune reported Tuesday that the medical-bill flap has been cited by U.S. and international media “as proof of what ails the U.S. health-care system.”

Wendell Potter, a former U.S. insurance industry executive but now a critic of the American system, wrote in the Huffington Post this week that the Burke family’s plight compounded their grief.

“The irony is that had the accident occurred in Canada, her family would not be having to come up with more than half a million dollars to pay for her care,” wrote Potter, an analyst for the Center for Public Integrity. “Her care would have been covered because, unlike the U.S., Canada has a system of universal coverage.”

An estimated 700,000 American families file for bankruptcy each year because of medical debt, he wrote.

“No one in Canada finds themselves in that predicament, nor do they face losing their homes as many Americans do when they become critically ill or suffer an injury,” Potter wrote.

Calgary Herald columnist Robert Remington, who along with Potter was cited in the Tribune story, quoted an un-named commentator who summed up the Burke family’s experience this way: “Sorry for your loss. Here’s your bill.”

Steve Morgan, a health policy analyst at the University of British Columbia, told Remington that U.S. insurance companies routinely negotiate down such big medical tabs but uninsured Americans pay full retail because they have no bargaining power.

“Morgan says Burke’s case should be a sobering reminder to Canadians of what could happen in a privately-insured market, rather than a public system where everyone is insured against a catastrophic event,” Remington wrote.


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