Surprise medical billing devastates rural American families


By Cooper Little

Executive Director, Independent Cattlemen’s Association of Texas

Earlier this month, the Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell testified before U.S. Senate and House of Representatives committees that more needs to be done to temper inflation. With the January Consumer Price Index topped out at over 6 percent, Chairman Powell is correct in that Americans are feeling the effects of inflation squeezing their wallets.

Inflationary pressure is already at an all-time high and the one thing America’s families absolutely cannot afford right now is escalating healthcare costs. In 2021, out-of-pocket healthcare spending rose 10.4 percent to $433.2 billion, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. That same year, nationwide healthcare spending topped out at $4.3 trillion or $12,914 per person. Texas consistently ranks among the top five states in personal health care spending.

All of this despite the fact that, insurance giants make hundreds of billions of dollars last year. So, while health insurance CEOs took home record-breaking profits for themselves and their shareholders, prices for American families continued to jump higher and higher.

In a survey compiled by Forbes, nearly half of insured individuals wanted more transparency from their insurance company on what services were authorized, 42 percent wanted more clarity on their out-of-pocket costs, and 53 percent said they were stressed about understanding their health insurance coverage and benefits.

The worst offender though is the surprise medical bill. For members of the Independent Cattlemen’s Association, injuries are an unavoidable part of daily physical labor. We practice and institute safety measures on the farm and ranch, but unfortunately, injuries do happen. We’re thankful to recently be partnered with EVACU that can assist our members in case of an emergency. But what happens after they make it to hospital?

And what if your insurer doesn’t think your emergency constitutes as one? Well, in 2021, UnitedHealthcare attempted to implement a policy that would retroactively bill their customers for emergency services if UnitedHealthcare decided the situation didn’t qualify as an emergency. Fortunately, they voluntarily rescinded this policy due to public pressure, but that doesn’t mean it’s the last time we’ll see a policy like this be proposed.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Health insurance companies should be held responsible to the customers they’re serving. When patients can’t afford care and hospitals can’t afford to keep the lights on – but insurance companies are raking in record profits – it’s time to reevaluate who the healthcare system is really benefiting.


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