ABC News has a shocking article about how Fire Departments are charging homeowners for the cost of the fire trucks and personnel used to fight their house fires — and how residents are “horrified” when they receive a bill for sometimes tens of thousands of dollars after their home burns down.
What does this have to do with health insurance? Humor me for a minute.
The article is full of interesting quotes. The “shocked” homeowner who received a bill for $27,989 responds “That’s what taxes are for.” Other quotes accuse local governments of “double dipping” — taxes and usage fees — for the same service. My favorite quote is from an insurance company institute spokesperson, who says “You don’t want to be thinking ‘can you afford it’ when your house is on fire.” Other people who received bills say “We don’t have any way to know if the charge was low or high or accurate.”
In the article, everyone except for the company that collects these debts for the fire departments (and gets a healthy cut) thinks charging homeowners for fire services is despicable and barbaric, to say the least.
And yet, Americans seem to accept a health care system where getting sick or having an accident can bankrupt you, even if you have health insurance. Where all but the richest people have to worry if they can afford it before they go to the hospital. Where seniors have to choose between health care and paying the rent. Where hospitals and doctors charge arbitrary (and huge) amounts of money and there is no way to know if the charges are accurate.
I’ve lived in several other countries, and I can tell you that most people look at our health care system as not only despicable and barbaric, but completely crazy, since their systems provide far better care for much less money. When will we wake up?