July 7, 2015

Tuesday's Number: $483,235

Tuesday is the day my local paper, the Syracuse Post-Standard, publishes the weekly business section. In addition to special features, tips from stock experts, budgeting advice and the like, we get the judgment and bankruptcy listings.

Since mid-2012, I’ve been tracking health care related filings. I include anything that is likely a patient debt owed to a hospital, nursing home, physician or physician group, medical supplier, and so on; I do not include filings by insurance companies, many of which are so diversified it would not be a fair assumption that the filing is related to medical care or health insurance. 

  • This week, there were sixteen new judgments to hospitals, doctors, or other medical providers, totaling $445,139.
  • There was one satisfied judgment, for $5,292.
  • And there were two bankruptcies, adding another $43,388. 

By hospital, here’s the breakdown: 

  • Crouse had eight, totaling $66,465
  • St. Joseph’s had one, for $13,611
  • SUNY Upstate had seven, for $74,309 

Crouse’s total included a credit of $5,292 for the satisfied judgment; I subtract the repayments from the overall totals and from the individual hospital totals, under the likelihood that they’ve already been incorporated into the numbers at some point now.

There were three other judgments this week: one each for a surgery practice and a cardiology group ($5,361 and $5,050 respectively), and one for a regional cancer center in Pennsylvania, a staggering $318,439. Together they account for the difference between the overall totals and the local hospital totals.  

I see the $318,439 and I wonder, did the person have any insurance? A policy that only covers in-network services and they went out of network? Were they getting experimental treatment that's not covered by their plan? Is there some failure of the health insurance 'process' here, or is it something else?  I know people do it all the time, but I have a hard time imagining myself trying to fight cancer and also having to tackle the mountain of debt that sometimes results from that fight. 

The paper publishes only those accounts of at least $5,000.