Something like this happens every day in Idaho. You’re a married, 55-year-old man with no young children who makes $15,000 a year as a part-time janitor. You own a $90,000 trailer with $25,000 still owed.
While mopping the floor and lifting chairs, you experience chest pain. You knew you were at risk. Your father died of a heart attack and you’ve had high blood pressure for years. Unfortunately, you’ve never had the means — or health insurance — to pay for blood pressure medication.
Luckily, a coworker finds you and rushes you to the local clinic. A doctor does an EKG and starts you on clot-busting drugs. Then you’re rushed to a larger hospital by ambulance for a stint. After a couple days in the hospital, it’s time to reconcile the bill.
It’s formidable. You’re on the hook for:
- the emergency room services
- the transportation service
- the cardiac catheterization procedure
- all medications
- the stint
- the hospital stay
- Also, you need a cardiac rehabilitation program and hypertension medications
The bill is about $22,000.
The hospital tries to qualify you for Medicaid, but to no avail. You make too much money.
There is only one option: beg for a loan from the county commissioners.
First, you must fill out a 12-page questionnaire that requires a full financial disclosure of everybody in your household.
Then you must also allow the county to put a lien on all your “real and personal property, insurance benefits, and any additional resources or assets” you own.
If the county commissioners agree to pay the first $11,000 of the bill, the remainder of the bill will be paid by the state’s Catastrophic Health Care Cost Program.
Hopefully, the county helps you get some type of health insurance that will treat chronic health issues such as diabetes.
If your situation gets worse and you move to Arizona to live with family members, the lien on your property means your medical bills, and the interest they’ve accrued, will be paid from the sale of your house.
Idaho is the only state in the country that does it this way. It’s a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad way to treat people.