Indiana Man Sued for Medical Bills As COBRA Benefits Exhausted
"I was downsized from my company and unable to make the COBRA payments to continue healthcare coverage. I did not realize that my inherited diabetes resulting in artery disease would prevent me from buying health insurance. While searching for a job I had to have quadruple bypass surgery.
"The result was filing bankruptcy to wipe out the medical debt," Paul Stephens of Princeton, Ind., said, echoing the experiences of so many Americans caught in the economic downturn. More than 50 percent of personal bankruptcies in the United States are now attributable to medical crisis, and 75 percent of those individuals and families had health insurance coverage.
"During this time my medical treatment ended when I left the hospital. I sat on the side of my bathtub draining infections from the surgery. I lapsed into a deep untreated depression for the next two years. Then I had chest pains again. I entered an emergency room where the treating physician confirmed I was having a heart attack. I was transported via ambulance to a regional hospital for treatment.
"Later I was sued for not paying a bill that I was unable to pay since I was unemployed. I tried to work out some sort of settlement with the hospital only to be told they did not make settlements, and that I should go to court," Paul said as he recounted the trauma of surgery, serious illness, the unaffordable COBRA benefits, and his ultimate bankruptcy.
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Eighty-two percent of Americans think the U.S. healthcare system should be fundamentally changed or completely rebuilt (Commonwealth Fund, Aug. 7, 2008). America's nurses know that only single-payer, improved and expanded Medicare for all will fix our broken system and the tragedy of our devastated families. HR 676, by U.S. Rep John Conyers, is the most comprehensive, cost effective way to achieve guaranteed healthcare for all. Read prior stories in this series at www.GuranteedHealthcare.org.
For more information, or to contact this patient: Liz Jacobs 510/273-2232 or Donna Smith 312/491-4901 .