And while this shows the depths of inhumanity to which private profit health insurance will go to get some money even during a national crisis, the cases themselves show the systemic flaws connected to a privatized insurance industry. Subsequently, WPR highlighted Blanche Jordan who was served papers inside of her Milwaukee duplex where she lives with her daughter and boyfriend. Jordan has been sheltering in place because the 39-year-old caregiver at an assisted living facility is immunocompromised as a breast cancer survivor. According to Jordan, she was sitting on the floor, doing a jigsaw puzzle in her living room when a woman served her papers. Jordan, it seems, has a $7,150 debt.
According to Jordan, this court summons came just three weeks after she had paid off a $5,000-plus debt connected to a hysterectomy insurance would not cover. "This lady came to my door. She didn't have a mask on. She didn't have gloves. And she looked at me like I'm crazy, because I had a mask across my face. I’m high-risk." Jordan’s lawsuit was filed on behalf of Froedtert.
An important note is that all of these lawsuits have been “paused,” not ended, and the private insurance and debt collection racket has no plans to forgive these debts. In fact, a Froedtert spokeman told WPR at the beginning of April that some small claims of debt would continue forward. For example, people with debt that had been around “for 6 years, and the statute of limitations is about to end." Can’t lose that money! If the government isn’t going to make these private industries whole again, they damn sure aren’t going to care what happens to you.
Dean Health Systems in Madison, Gundersen Health System in La Crosse, and north Winsconsin-serving Aspirus Grand View Health System have also have been continuing their debt collecting. But, Dean Health Systems Inc. says “most” of these were filed before the state of emergency declaration and that they are "working to pause many cases." Many, not all. I guess you don’t want anyone getting a free ride on some of those famously elective hysterectomies?
Right now, states like Wisconsin are trying to write legislation that will apply Band-Aid financial fixes to the medical debts that will be accrued because of COVID-19 directly. Things like potential future immunizations, and current trips to emergency rooms and ICUs. They are also trying to manage the enormous unemployment crisis that has begun, already doubling last year’s numbers in claims in states like Wisconsin.
Before this pandemic helped to bring many of America’s flaws into stark relief, medical debt collection was an obvious problem. It is predatory, the system surrounding it is clearly corrupt, and finally and most importantly, it is a public health failure.