This Story Is A Perfect Example Of The Economic Despair That Most American Families Are Enduring In This “Booming” Economy

The middle class in America is being systematically eviscerated right in front of our eyes.  I don’t normally do this, but today I want to share with you an email that was recently sent to me by a reader.  I asked for permission to share her story with all of you, because I think that it will be encouraging for a lot of people out there to understand that they aren’t alone.  In this supposedly “booming” economy, millions upon millions of American families are barely making it from month to month even though they are working as hard as they possibly can.  But because the mainstream media has been endlessly touting “good economic news” for the last several years, many of those that are struggling end up believing that something must be wrong with them since they aren’t participating in all of the “prosperity”.  But of course the truth is that almost all of the economic rewards have been going to the very top of the economic pyramid.  Meanwhile, the middle class continues to shrink and more families fall into poverty with each passing month.

As you read the email that I am about to share with you, there are several things that I want you to notice.

#1 These people are not lazy.  The husband has a good job for the area in which they live, and the wife is working very hard to bring in some online income as she takes care of the kids.  So neither of them would be considered to be “unemployed”.

#2 They are also very frugal.  They have cut expenses as far as they can, and they are still not able to make ends meet.

#3 They are being crushed by medical bills.  Our healthcare system is a completely and total nightmare, and there are no solutions in sight.  Thanks to the Democrats, soaring health insurance premiums are absolutely crushing middle class families.  And the Republicans have had almost two years to try to fix things, and they have completely failed to get anything done.  Shame on all of them.

#4 Almost everyone that they know is on government assistance, and so far they have resisted the urge to follow suit.  Right now, more than 100 million Americans receive assistance from the government every month, and we are rapidly being transformed into a full-blown socialist nation.

I could say so much more, but let me get right to the email.  This story really touched my heart, and I know that it will touch your heart as well…

I and my husband have been reading your blog for five or six years now. So many of your articles sound just like us, and I just wanted to share our situation and perspective as conservative Christians who were actually taught Biblical handling of money. Hopefully it will help you with your writing!

Unlike most millennials, we came into marriage with no debt and a decent savings. We have always lived on a strict budget that usually doesn’t include clothing or eating out; most of the time it doesn’t even include saving! We have never used credit cards. I am very frugal, shopping by what’s on sale, buying in bulk, cooking from scratch, and often doing without. We eat beans more than anything else. We own one vehicle, and half the time have to borrow a car from family because ours breaks down and we don’t have the money to fix it.

We work hard. My husband works for the county more than full time, and makes quite a bit more than most jobs in our area (minimum wage is 8.25 here), but a third of his check goes straight to taxes. I worked outside the home before we had children, and now have a blog and an online business that make a few hundred a month on average. We also work hard growing a large garden and keeping a few animals for food.

Unfortunately we just can’t make ends meet. We’ve used up all of our savings and haven’t been able to replace it. Family members are giving us $500-$1000 every month. We’ve both been in the hospital a few times for injury and illness, and each time costs thousands of dollars. We spent our tax return this year on medical bills, and still owe thousands to the local hospital.

We see what is going on in this country, and around the world, and we want to be prepared, but instead of getting ahead we just get more and more behind. We’ve already sold everything that was worth anything.

After taxes, the biggest expense that is killing us is insurance. All the types of insurance that are mandatory or just seem like a necessity now – health insurance, car insurance, insurance for our mobile home and rental property (required by our landlord), life insurance that is necessary with my husband’s job.

Medical bills are next on the list – who can afford to go to a doctor nowadays, even with insurance? We do everything possible to avoid doctor visits, even having our last child at home without a midwife even though I am considered high risk. Sometimes emergencies happen though, and going to the doctor just isn’t avoidable.

Pretty much all of our friends and co-workers are getting government help every month. Honestly we’d be a lot better off if we did to, but we don’t want to. It’s not the government’s job to take care of everybody.

But really, what are we supposed to do? Is there anything we can do to fix the mess our economy is in? Is there anything people like us can do to get out of this situation, or is it just a hopeless downward spiral that’s going to get worse and worse till we are living under a bridge?

I wrote her back and tried to encourage her.  No matter how bad things seem to be in life, there is always a way to turn things around if you just keep on fighting.

And things could turn around for America too, but we would have to be willing to fundamentally change our ways, and at this moment there are no indications that this will happen any time soon.

I get accused of being all about “doom and gloom”, but in my latest book I set forth a detailed prescription for what we need to do to turn things around.  And I ran for Congress on a platform of positive solutions, but that message didn’t resonate enough with the voters.

Inexplicably, most Americans seem to like the status quo even though the system is literally coming apart at the seams all around us.

What we have been doing as a nation does not work, it is not sustainable, and it has become exceedingly clear that a day of reckoning is rapidly approaching.  At this point it is so obvious that even the mainstream media is starting to warn of imminent economic disaster.

For years, many of us have been warning what would happen if we did not change our ways, and we have been trying to offer alternative solutions, but most Americans continue to embrace the current system and believe that it will be able to survive despite all of the evidence to the contrary.

In the end, it is probably going to take a complete and utter collapse of the current system before most people will wake up, and that is something that nobody will enjoy.

This article originally appeared on The Economic Collapse Blog.  About the author: Michael Snyder is a nationally syndicated writer, media personality and political activist. He is publisher of The Most Important News and the author of four books including The Beginning Of The End and Living A Life That Really Matters.

Scam Alert: Hospitals All Over America Are Wildly Inflating Medical Bills

Medical Bills - Public DomainThe next time you visit a hospital, it is your wallet that may end up hurting the most.  All over the United States, it has become common practice for hospitals to wildly inflate medical bills.  For example, it has been reported that some hospitals are charging up to 30 dollars for a single aspirin pill.  And as you will see below, some victims report being billed tens of thousands of dollars for a non-surgical hospital visit that lasts only a few hours.  When something is seriously wrong with us, most of us never stop to ask our health professionals how much it will cost to actually treat us.  In that moment, we are desperate and we just want someone to help us.  Many doctors and hospitals take full advantage of this by billing their “customers” as much as they feel they can possible get away with.  It is a legal scam that is bilking ordinary Americans out of billions of dollars every single year.

Over the weekend, the New York Times reported on one case that is a perfect example of the outrageous medical billing that I am talking about…

Before his three-hour neck surgery for herniated disks in December, Peter Drier, 37, signed a pile of consent forms. A bank technology manager who had researched his insurance coverage, Mr. Drier was prepared when the bills started arriving: $56,000 from Lenox Hill Hospital in Manhattan, $4,300 from the anesthesiologist and even $133,000 from his orthopedist, who he knew would accept a fraction of that fee.

He was blindsided, though, by a bill of about $117,000 from an “assistant surgeon,” a Queens-based neurosurgeon whom Mr. Drier did not recall meeting.

“I thought I understood the risks,” Mr. Drier, who lives in New York City, said later. “But this was just so wrong — I had no choice and no negotiating power.”

The practice known as “drive-by doctoring” has gotten completely and totally out of control.

All over America, doctors are popping into surgeries or are stopping by to talk to another doctor’s patients for a few minutes and are charging thousands of dollars for this “assistance”.

It is a morally reprehensible scam that needs to be stopped.

Another thing that needs to be stopped is the practice that many hospitals have of billing patients for emergency medications at a rate that is thousands of times over cost.

For example, just check out what happened when 52-year-old Marcie Edmonds went in to a hospital in Arizona to get treated for a scorpion sting

With the help of a friend, she called Poison Control and was advised to go to the nearest hospital that had scorpion antivenom, Chandler Regional Medical Center. At the hospital, an emergency room doctor told her about the antivenom, called Anascorp, that could quickly relieve her symptoms. Edmonds said the physician never talked with her about the cost of the drug or treatment alternatives.

Her symptoms subsided after she received two doses of the drug Anascorp through an IV, and she was discharged from the hospital in about three hours.

Weeks later, she received a bill for $83,046 from Chandler Regional Medical Center. The hospital, owned by Dignity Health, charged her $39,652 per dose of Anascorp.

Did that hospital actually need to charge that much?

Of course not.

Hospitals down in Mexico only charge $100 per dose of Anascorp.

And anyone that has ever been in for major surgery knows how outrageous some of these hospital bills can be.

For instance, consider the experience of an NBC News reporter that chose to have neck surgery for degenerative disc disease….

Once I got my itemized bill, the grand total was a little over $66,013.40!   That was for a one night stay and a four level vertebrae fusion surgery.  The charges included $22 for one sleeping pill, $427 for one dissecting tool, and $32,000 for four titanium plates and ten screws.

I brought it to Todd Hill, a fee based patient advocate who helps people decipher their medical bills. “The screws in your procedure were billed at $605 a piece for a total of $6050 dollars. We’ve seen those in our past research for $25 or $30,” he said. “In this case, the markup is tremendous,” he added.

One of the primary reasons why so many Americans die completely broke is because medical bills can run up to astronomical heights if you happen to have a terminal illness.

For example, a while back Time Magazine reported on one cancer patient in California that had run up nearly a million dollars in hospital bills before he died…

By the time Steven D. died at his home in Northern California the following November, he had lived for an additional 11 months. And Alice had collected bills totaling $902,452. The family’s first bill — for $348,000 — which arrived when Steven got home from the Seton Medical Center in Daly City, Calif., was full of all the usual chargemaster profit grabs: $18 each for 88 diabetes-test strips that Amazon sells in boxes of 50 for $27.85; $24 each for 19 niacin pills that are sold in drugstores for about a nickel apiece. There were also four boxes of sterile gauze pads for $77 each. None of that was considered part of what was provided in return for Seton’s facility charge for the intensive-care unit for two days at $13,225 a day, 12 days in the critical unit at $7,315 a day and one day in a standard room (all of which totaled $120,116 over 15 days). There was also $20,886 for CT scans and $24,251 for lab work.

The sad truth is that the U.S. health care system has become a giant money making scam, and all of us are the victims.

Those that work in this industry should be greatly ashamed for what they are doing to us.

Just consider the following numbers…

-It has been estimated that hospitals in the United States overcharge their patients by about 10 billion dollars every single year.

-Medical bills are the number one reason why Americans file for bankruptcy.  One study found that approximately 41 percent of all working age Americans either have medical bill problems or are currently paying off medical debt.

-According to a report published in The American Journal of Medicine, medical bills cause more than 60 percent of the personal bankruptcies in the United States.

-Health insurance is not nearly as much protection as you might think.  According to a report published in the American Journal of Medicine, of all bankruptcies caused by medical debt approximately 75 percent of the time the people actually did have health insurance.

-Hospitals are not shy about sending debt collection agencies after people with unpaid medical bills.  In fact, collection agencies seek to collect unpaid medical bills from approximately 30 million Americans every year.

-Back in 1980, less than 10 percent of U.S. GDP went to health care.  Today, about 18 percent of U.S. GDP goes toward health care.

-If the U.S. health care system was a nation, it would be the 6th largest economy on the entire planet.

Does anyone out there have any doubt that the system is completely broken?

Please share this article with as many people as you can.  Hospitals all over America are brazenly ripping us off, and we need to stand up and say that enough is enough.

$83,046 For A 3 Hour Hospital Visit – Why Are Hospital Bills So Outrageous?

The fastest way to go broke in America is to go to the hospital.  These days it seems like almost everyone has an outrageous hospital bill story to share.  It is getting to the point where most people are deathly afraid to go to the hospital.  All the financial progress that you have made in recent years can literally be wiped out in just a matter of hours.  For example, you are about to read about an Arizona woman that was recently charged $83,046 for a 3 hour hospital visit.  How in the world is anyone supposed to pay a bill like that?  I have a really hard time understanding why a visit to the doctor should ever be more than a couple hundred bucks or why a hospital stay should ever be more than a couple thousand dollars.  Outrageous hospital bills are a real pet peeve of mine and I have not even been to the hospital in ages.  What makes all of this even more infuriating is that Medicare, Medicaid and the big insurance companies are often charged less than 10 percent of what the rest of us are billed for the same procedures.  There is a reason why 41 percent of all working age Americans are struggling with medical debt right now.  It is because our health care system has become a giant money making scam.  Millions of desperate Americans go into hospitals each year assuming that they will be treated fairly, but in the end they get stuck with incredibly outrageous bills and in many cases cruel debt collection techniques are employed against them if they don’t pay.

So why do we have to pay so much for medical care?  Back in 1980, less than 10 percent of U.S. GDP went to health care.  Today, about 18 percent of U.S. GDP goes toward health care.

And considering the fact that over the next 20 years the number of Americans 65 years of age or older is projected to double that number is going to go even higher.

On a per capita basis we spend about twice as much on health care as anyone else in the world.

In fact, if the U.S. health care system was a nation it would be the 6th largest economy on the entire planet.

America spent 2.47 trillion dollars on health care in 2009, and it is now being projected that we will spend 4.5 trillion dollars on health care in 2019.

Our system is completely and totally broken, and Obamacare is going to make things far worse.  We need to throw the entire system out and start over.

A perfect example of why this is true is what happened when 52-year-old Marcie Edmonds went in to a hospital in Arizona recently to get treated for a scorpion sting….

With the help of a friend, she called Poison Control and was advised to go to the nearest hospital that had scorpion antivenom, Chandler Regional Medical Center. At the hospital, an emergency room doctor told her about the antivenom, called Anascorp, that could quickly relieve her symptoms. Edmonds said the physician never talked with her about the cost of the drug or treatment alternatives.

Her symptoms subsided after she received two doses of the drug Anascorp through an IV, and she was discharged from the hospital in about three hours.

Weeks later, she received a bill for $83,046 from Chandler Regional Medical Center. The hospital, owned by Dignity Health, charged her $39,652 per dose of Anascorp.

What makes this even more shocking is that hospitals in Mexico only charge $100 per dose of Anascorp.

These days many hospitals will do whatever they can get away with on hospital bills.

One NBC News reporter was absolutely stunned at the bill that she received after she went in for neck surgery for degenerative disc disease recently….

Once I got my itemized bill, the grand total was a little over $66,013.40!   That was for a one night stay and a four level vertebrae fusion surgery.  The charges included $22 for one sleeping pill, $427 for one dissecting tool, and $32,000 for four titanium plates and ten screws.

I brought it to Todd Hill, a fee based patient advocate who helps people decipher their medical bills. “The screws in your procedure were billed at $605 a piece for a total of $6050 dollars. We’ve seen those in our past research for $25 or $30,” he said. “In this case, the markup is tremendous,” he added.

Considering the fact that 77 percent of American families are living paycheck to paycheck at least part of the time, a single hospital bill like this can be a financial death blow.

If you have time, read this tragic story where one man was charged $11,000 and all he had was a case of bad indigestion.  Nothing was even wrong with him and now his family is going to have to declare bankruptcy.

Often medical bills are so complex and so confusing that nobody can really understand them.  A lot of the times this is probably done on purpose to keep people from understanding how badly they are being overcharged.  The following is from a recent article in the New York Times….

Hospital care tends to be the most confounding, and experts say the charges you see on your bill are usually completely unrelated to the cost of providing the services (at hospitals, these list prices are called the “charge master file”). “The charges have no rhyme or reason at all,” Gerard Anderson, director of the Center for Hospital Finance and Management at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “Why is 30 minutes in the operating room $2,000 and not $1,500? There is absolutely no basis for setting that charge. It is not based upon the cost, and it’s not based upon the market forces, other than the whim of the C.F.O. of the hospital.”

And those charges don’t really have any connection to what a hospital or medical provider will accept for payment, either. “If you line up five patients in their beds and they all have gall bladders removed and they get the same exact medication and services, if they have insurance or if they don’t have insurance, the hospital will get five different reimbursements, and none of it is based on cost,” said Holly Wallack, a medical billing advocate in Miami Beach. “The insurers negotiate a different rate, and if you are uninsured, underinsured or out of network, you are asked to pay full fare.”

It has been estimated that hospitals in the United States overcharge their patients by about 10 billion dollars every single year.

Medical bills are the number one reason why Americans file for bankruptcy.  As I mentioned earlier, approximately 41 percent of all working age Americans are struggling with medical debt.

And health insurance is not as much protection as you might think.  According to a report published in the American Journal of Medicine, of all bankruptcies caused by medical debt, approximately 75 percent of the time the people actually did have health insurance.

And if you can’t pay your bills, many hospitals will come after you ruthlessly.

In fact, collection agencies sought to collect unpaid medical bills from approximately 30 million Americans during 2010 alone.

If you don’t cough up the cash they are demanding you can even end up in prison.  The following example comes from CBS News….

How did breast cancer survivor Lisa Lindsay end up behind bars? She didn’t pay a medical bill — one the Herrin, Ill., teaching assistant was told she didn’t owe. “She got a $280 medical bill in error and was told she didn’t have to pay it,” The Associated Press reports. “But the bill was turned over to a collection agency, and eventually state troopers showed up at her home and took her to jail in handcuffs.”

Although the U.S. abolished debtors’ prisons in the 1830s, more than a third of U.S. states allow the police to haul people in who don’t pay all manner of debts, from bills for health care services to credit card and auto loans.

But why do these bills have to be so high?  It is not like many doctors are getting rich these days.  In fact, many of them are going broke.

So what is the deal?

Well, as a recent article by Dr. Paul Craig Roberts explained, there are a whole lot of people pulling profit out of the system other than just doctors these days….

There are two main reasons that US medicine is so expensive. One is that profits are piled upon profits. In addition to wages and salaries for doctors, nurses, and medical personnel, the American health care system has to provide profits for private hospitals, diagnostic centers, insurance companies, and for the accountants, attorneys and management consultants made necessary by the enormous litigation and regulatory compliance cost. American medicine is the most regulated in the world and the most criminalized.

And another big factor is that the rest of us have to make up the difference for the patients that are not profitable.

It has gotten to the point where some doctors in certain kinds of practices barely make any profit on Medicare and Medicaid patients.  In fact, in many cases doctors actually lose money treating them.

An article posted on medicalcostadvocate.com has some outrageous examples of the difference between what you and I are billed and what Medicare pays out for the exact same procedures….

A patient in Illinois was charged $12,712 for cataract surgery. Medicare pays $675 for the same procedure. In California, a patient was charged $20,120 for a knee operation for which Medicare pays $584. And a New Jersey patient was charged $72,000 for a spinal fusion procedure that Medicare covers for $1,629.

So not only do we pay very high taxes to support Medicaid and Medicare, we also have to pay higher medical bills in order to make up the difference for the money that doctors and hospitals are not seeing from those patients.

Unfortunately, Medicaid and Medicare are expected to grow dramatically in the years ahead.

For example, it is now being projected that Obamacare will add 16 million more Americans to Medicaid.

And enrollment in Medicare is projected to grow from 50.7 million today to 73.2 million in 2025.

How in the world can our current system possibly handle this?

And please don’t tell me that Obamacare is the answer.

The truth is that Obamacare is going to take everything that is wrong with our health care system and make it even worse.

For a good summary on this, please see this article.

In the years ahead it is going to get even harder for those that are not dependent on the government for health care….

-Approximately 10 percent of all employers plan to drop health insurance coverage entirely because of Obamacare.

-According to one recent poll, 83 percent of all doctors in the United States have considered quitting the profession because of Obamacare, and we were already projected to have a severe doctor shortage in the years ahead even before Obamacare came along.

We are heading into the greatest health care crisis the United States has ever seen, and none of our leaders seem to have any answers.

In a recent article entitled “11 Signs That The U.S. Health Care System Is Heading Straight Down The Toilet“, I detailed a lot more reasons why our health care system is a national disgrace.  If you can handle some more ranting I encourage you to go check that article out.

I am just absolutely disgusted with the condition of our health care system.  It is dominated by government bureaucrats, pharmaceutical corporations and the big health insurance companies.  It is a giant money making scam that seeks to drain as much money from the rest of us as possible.

So do you have a hospital bill horror story to share?  Please feel free to share your thoughts below….