Jailed Over Medical Bills; Pennsylvanians Support Medicare for All; End of Surprise Billing Nears

Public Citizen Has You Covered

Welcome to this week’s edition of “We’ve Got You Covered,” a weekly tipsheet designed to highlight key news about Medicare for All and call out the biggest health care industry lies and falsehoods about universal health care. Please send tips, feedback and questions to Mike Stankiewicz, mstankiewicz@citizen.org, (202) 588-7779.

**IN THE MEDIA**

Watch Melinda St. Louis, director of Public Citizen’s Medicare for All program, discuss the retroactive denial of medical procedure coverage, industry misinformation and other Medicare for All details with NBC Philadelphia. Also, watch John Oliver dismantle bad faith attacks on Medicare for All on Last Week Tonight.

MEDICARE FOR ALL MEANS NO SURPRISE BILLING – EVER

Legislation to end surprise billing is quickly making its way through the U.S. House of Representatives. Both the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee and the Education and Labor Committee passed bills to address the practice of billing patients for out-of-network costs when they go to an in-network hospital but are treated by an out-of-network doctor.

But the two legislative proposals have some important differences, and lawmakers in both chambers are facing down private equity companies that are seeking to water down the legislation or kill it entirely.

Surprise billing is just one of the more egregious practices in our for-profit, fragmented health insurance system. With Medicare for All, no patient would need to worry about receiving a surprise bill, because one payer – Medicare – would pay the bill for each patient who receives treatment.

3 MILLION-PLUS PENNSYLVANIANS FOR MEDICARE FOR ALL

Support for single-payer health care is rocking the Keystone State.

The Easton, Pa., City Council on Feb. 12 unanimously passed a resolution in support of Medicare for All and is the sixth Pennsylvania locality to pass such a resolution, following Bethlehem, Norristown, Pittsburgh, Allegheny County and Philadelphia. The localities in total are home to almost 3 million Pennsylvanians.

“From small towns like Bethlehem and Norristown to major metropolitan cities like Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, Pennsylvanians are demanding guaranteed health care for all,” said St. Louis. “It’s time for all of Pennsylvania’s congressional delegation to get behind this grassroots movement and support Medicare for All in Congress.”

Public Citizen is part of a coalition urging citizens to press their local governments to pass similar resolutions; more than 300 efforts are underway.

JAILED OVER MEDICAL BILLS

In another example of how inhumane our profit-driven health care system is, some Americans are being jailed over unpaid medical bills.

CBS News reports that in Kansas, the father of a child with leukemia, whose wife suffers seizures, was arrested for failing to appear in court for unpaid medical bills. Tres Biggs was working two jobs to support his family at the time.

Some lawyers are also raking in cash from suffering families by representing hospitals to collect debt owed.

“This raises serious constitutional concerns,” said Nusrat Choudhury, the deputy director of the ACLU. “What’s happening here is a jailhouse shakedown for cash that is the criminalization of private debt.”

Under Medicare for All, no family would face this unjust nightmare. The policy would eliminate the fear of medical debt by removing all out-of-pocket costs, including copays, deductibles and premiums.

REMINDER: Union members would benefit greatly under Medicare for All. Now, many labor unions regularly forgo pay increases to create and maintain their health insurance plans, which employers try and to renegotiate every year.

With Medicare for All, those workers wouldn’t have to make that tradeoff and instead could put more time and energy into negotiating better wages, vacation, work hours, family leave and other benefits.

Furthermore, even relatively robust union health insurance plans fall short of providing the comprehensive medical care – including vision, dental, prescription drugs and long-term care – without any copays or deductibles and complete choice of doctors and hospitals that would be covered under Medicare for All.

To speak with a Medicare for All policy expert, or if you have questions about Public Citizen’s work, please contact Mike Stankiewicz, mstankiewicz@citizen.org, (202) 588-7779.