tv Ali Velshi on Target Al Jazeera September 6, 2015 8:00am-8:31am EDT
extraordinary scrent of purpose and unity everywhere. so in that regard, i think we need to take a lesson, and that is that as a community, an industry, we need to hold together and support one another, fighting to defend the freedom of the press. i'm ali velshi. target tonight. inheriting debt from your parents, if you think it can't happen in america, think again. in the united states, health care is a multibillion dollar industry that makes a lot of
money for doctors hospitals insurers, hospitals operate out there many of them as nonprofit institutions. around 2900 of them are considered nonprofit organizations. another 23% are owned by state and local governments, the rest are private for-profit institutions. the vast majority almost two-thirds of all hospitals in america today enjoy nonprofit status. now we are talking about hospital systems that enjoy tax breaks in return for free or discounted care that they provide to local-income or unassured patients accordin unassureduninsured patients. charity care services that benefit the communities they serve . that is the idea anyway but in
far too many cases, hospitals are providing a lot less charity and tightening their rules on financial assistance for patients. hospitals that get big tax breaks. it's not that nonprofit hospital he aren't allowed to turn a profit. they do and they should. especially when they're treating better-off patients who can afford their medical coverage. but nonprofit hospitals are required to reinvest those profits to expand services and upgrade facilities. instead critics say they're reinvesting their gains into higher salaries for administrators and other nonmedical employees. and thus, the motivation for nonprofit hospitals to squeeze more profits out of their patients continues to grow. adding insult to injury, tens of thousands of hospital patients throughout the country who qualify for charity care are still getting billed for treatment and if that isn't painful enough, there is a disturbing trend in nonprofit hospital care.
patients who should have qualified for free or discounted care are now being relentlessly pursued by debt collectors. >> it was a sunday morning and i was jarred awake by someone pounding on my door. >> they were relentless, it was daily. they would start at 8 o'clock in the morning and call until 9:3010:00 at , 10:00 at night. >> i was shaken down like i was a criminal. >> if there was a knock at the door i would get a pan ig attack. >> it was like i was getting cancer. >> debt collectors operating on behalf of nonprofit hospitals. according to multiple investigations relentless investigations, i wage garnishment and costly debt collection have been waged by
nonprofit hospitals. >> i'm so nervous. i've been running a 24 hour gambit right now. >> 24-year-old hosalito gomez has been prepared for this day, his day in court. unable to afford an attorney, he's remitting himself. >> so today i'm going in confident that the legal system, the judicial system will do right by me. will i win? i don't know. i'm scared, i'm very scared. >> the tech support worker is being sued by a debt collector o on behalf of seattle mason hospital. >> i believe this is an unfair
and unjust bill against me. >> lopez believed his 100% care meant exactly that. he was shocked to learn that the hospital was suing him for $1,000. >> my diebth was getting bad. they -- my diabetes was getting bad. >> although his visit was covered, virginia mason sued lopez over a pair of glasses. >> this should fall under charity care. they are medically necessary. without them, i can't see. >> virginia mason declined our request to appear on camera but did issue this statement:
>> consumer advocacy groups like washington can say many nonprofit hospitals aren't doing enough to reach out and service low income patients. so they're getting the word out with protests and door to door visits. >> if you are a nonprofit you're receiving a significant tax benefit to do so. and you owes a community benefit in return. >> will pitts heads washington can. >> their ability to squeeze dollars out of every single patient. >> many nonprofits are in fact more profitable than for profit hospitals. critics say that's because they enjoy tax breaks for providing charity care with little oversight. >> we have seen an incredible increase thi in ceo salaries and profits that are going through
the roof. this doesn't happen at the detriment of low income patients. >> across the country in charlotte, north carolina, 58-year-old karen robinson actually envies lopez in with us respect. he was getting his day in court. >> i was upset they were doing this without letting me know. >> the him health care worker was treated for breast cancer. later she learned she was successfully sued for over $44,000. the court date came and went without her being notified. >> i'm trying to tell myself you can't even get more upset because i'm still trying to fight with the chemo. >> your brain goes into you know
know, what in the world, you're like okay am i financially screwed forever? there's no way that you could come up with that kind of money. >> robberson lost her job and her medical insurance shortly after a lumpectomy. she earned about $10,000 that year due to her illness and her job loss. overcome with a mountain of bills, her son davey filled out multiple health care forms. >> i would try to track this person down and we kept going through the motions of seeing what we needed to do and never got a response at all . >> carolinas health care system declined to appear on camera. they did claim to have issued notice of karen's court date. lawsuits have been on the decline since 2009. we attribute this decline to the efforts of our financial
assistance programs that are nationally recognized as best in class and a model for others across the country. but for the less than model behavior that is occurring, political action is beginning to take route. in 2013, north carolina passed legislation pushed 5 by the toarnlingattorneyattorney gener. >> we were seeing that a lot of consumers didn't know that hospitals had charity policies. >> kevin anderson is director of consumer protection at the north carolina attorney general's office. he's saying offices are not letting patients know about a life line, the tip of the iceberg for some of them. >> they were told it was too late and they had applied to late and therefore they couldn't get the care and they would be socked with a collections lawsuit. while they thought they were working with the hospital. >> it's now illegal in north
carolina to refer patients to collections while their applications for charity care are still pending. and hospitals can't force patients to sell their home to pay medical bills. >> i have before me the charity care letter that i received. and in there there's vagueness . it says here -- >> that's the problem, i don't have any of that. >> back in seattle, hosalito lopez finds out the pitfalls when he represents himself in court. >> it's daunting not having an attorney. >> lopez doesn't have all the correct paperwork so the judge decides the case will be postponed for another month. he's still optimistic. >> it made difference that i was there, to show up to stabbed up to fight. >> shortly after we contacted virginia mason for
>> revealing accusations, cover-ups and the shocking failures. >> before he raped me, he had already been sanctioned by the college. >> is enough being done to protect our children? >> nonprofit hospitals tend to be the most profitable hospitals in the country. health care critics say that's because nonprofit hospitals receive hefty tax breaks to offer free or discounted care to low income patients. but they then turn around and sue those patients to pay the full price of the care three receive. health care consultant mark rukavinna advises nonprofit hospitals about their health care position. mark thank you so much for being with us. nonprofit hospitals get tax breaks to serve underserved communities. that relationship is explicit. it is very clear.
they are learne allowed to turna profit but expanding those services to serve low income communities. but nonprofits are taking extra money and lining the pockets of administrators and nonmedical employees. is that what's going on here? >> i can't speak to whether or not they are lining the pockets. but i know from work that i've done in the past that these charity care policies are quite important to communities. and you're right. the tax exempt status of hospitals is given in exchange with the expectation that they'll give community benefit back to the residents of their community. the financial assistance or charity care policies are a very important part of that community benefit indeed. >> you are not here obviously to defend outrageous cases some of which we just focused on but you are a hospital consultant. you talk to the ceos of these nonprofit hospitals about charity care all the time so you know this world. tell us what could be the
motivation of a hospital to aggressively sue a patient, when in fact it is a hospital that's supposed to offer charity care to low income patients? >> yes. so a couple of things. i mean some of the stories were quite disturbing that you told in this segment. i think what's occurred over the past few years is as you said these provisions were included as obamacare, the affordable care act, and there's improved transparencies regardless of these policies. the policies need to be in writing, need to be shared with members of the communities, should outline the criteria used to determine the eligibility for the process and whether it's free or partial care as your segment said. that information needs to be widely available to members of the community. people should be informed on admission or discharge. the information on admission or charity care should be included on bills that people receive. i'm hoping that the kind of
stories you've highlighted on this segment will decrease in number if not disappear altogether as these new features are implementthroughout the country. >> i tend to be right on everything i say but once in a while things can slip through cracks. i mentioned that some nonprofit hospitals are more profitable than for profit hospitals, is that true? >> i think some nonprofit hospitals are very profitable, others are on the ropes. there is a great variation among the 3,000 hospital across the country. but certainly some of them have comfortable margins, some have comfortable reserves. and from them we should expect that they have generous assistance policies for the less fortunate for those uninsured and underinsured members of the community. chiefs of staff of hospitals
have to tell you, they have to balance what's prudent for them and the needs of the community. in some states as we know the state government has opted not to expand the medicaid program so there would be other people who would otherwise qualified for the public benefit who aren't getting the benefit of that and yes, nonprofit hospitals will be a very important part of the safety net in particular in those communities where the number of low income uninsured patients is going to remain quite high. the expectation is that the charity care policies these financial assistance policies will be made available to members of the community so they can take advantage of them. >> that seems to be crux of the matter. you go into a nonprofit hospital if you are a low income patient and you sometimes believe that you are entitled to charity care. and it seems that the clear. in other words the first attempt in some of these cases and i don't want to paint everybody with the same brush, in some of
these cases is to offer that person paid services and sort of keep in the back pocket the idea that there's charity care. and if the patient doesn't know that they're entitled to charity care, not to come out with that. what would be the hospital's motivation of even telling somebody they could be treated for free if there's a possibility of getting some money out of that patient? >> i think first of all hospital should be screening to see if people are eligible for medicaid or the healthy insurance marketplace. the brackets now i best practico screen patients to see if they are eligible or thought. improvement in this area where hospitals are being far more transparent about their charity care or financial assistance policies. what's driving it if they're not doing that? i don't know. maybe previous practice. but again, i think the situation has changed, these new requirements are quite clear, and if people think they might be eligible for financial
assistance, they should ask the staff at the hospital. if they're not getting answers they feel are satisfactory they should go right up to the chief financial officer or the chief executive officer and ask them whether or not they might qualify for charity care or financial assistance. and the stories that you've told, again in this segment, regarding aggressive billing collection actions, i think it's important to communicate those, as well, with the chief financial and executive officers, as well as the state attorney general's office and as you saw in one of the stories, that did seem to get results for this low income patient. >> mark, thanks for joining us and discussing this, with community health advisors. >> you're welcome. >> it's bad enough when a stranger steals your identity. >> at one time i felt that selling cocaine was my purpose. >> as the amount of drugs grew, guns came in. >> the murder rate was sky high. >> this guy was the biggest in l.a.
>> last year, 201 12.7 million americans had 16 billion stolen from them because of identity fraud. and last year. they had information stolen from them by someone they knew, roommates, contain tans, close, and family members. using the identities of their children to keep the family afloat. often they are taking a step that the law considers fraud to help keep the lights on. or the phone working.
but not only is that illegal, it can have serious financial implications for the children. duarte geraldino has the story. >> jeroma was 12 when the lights went out the first time. >> i remember a number of times when the electricity went off. and i called my mom and she said oh i was supposed to pay the bill today. >> he grew up here in cambridge massachusetts. >> for a while, my father was the only person working with six children. >> reporter: depending on how you see it, miranda was a victim of a crime punishable, or a position that he could not cope with. >> they would put it in someone else's name. >> reporter: put the bill in someone else's name. his parents
abandoned their account and opened a bill in joel's name. >> did you inherit the debt? >> i did. we needed the lights on. >> joel is one of the estimated 400,000 children who had their soits stolen by adults. identity theft in miles an hour minors. >> at the time there was an electricity bill in my name. >> bills kept piling up. >> at some point in the thousands and again out of necessity right, i can't stress that enough that comes across, and it's done, and it's done to help the family. >> reporter: miranda's problems began about the time when states started deregulating energy markets. it was meant
to keep prices low. but it didn't work that way. retail prices in deregulated states rose far faster than in regulated ones. it wasn't just the prices that increased, utility companies also jumped. denise franklin works for a company that makes sure that people can afford energy. >> they know when bills aren't paid they will shut off the utility services. i don't know that they understand what families have to do to sphierv survive. >> utility companies have the ability to korean new applicants to see if they are children or adults. they just don't. that's how it. at the time keisha was only 16. >> i thought, well we get to start over. yeah, the previous bill kind of
got out of hand and it escaped her. but maybe if we started over fresh, she would be able to keep up. you know? like sometimes you think maybe the person just needs a reset. sometimes people just think they need a reset. get rid of the debt that i have now and start over without the burden of it. everything will be fine and things will be better. but that's not the truth. it's not. and then you know, there was a bit of appointment because it wasn't just in her name. it was in my name. >> reporter: the practice is so common that five states are taking a really strong stance against child yifd theft. indiana goe child i-theft. in indiana, you face a far harsher penalty than if the victim was an adult.
laws address only one side of the problem. child cyber credit expert charles sicilyano says. >> there's a cost risk analysis whether or not they want to dig deeper and authenticity whether the social profile matches with the age of the applicant. >> and the person at risk is the child. >> the child is always at risk. >> to make things worse, social security numbers are a national i.d. they were meant to be not child biographical information. equifax wrote in part, the date of birth is not part of the credit file, a more in depth credit file does not exist. that means a child born right now could have a light or gas
bill put in his name within a few weeks. legally victims by defect don't have to pay bills racked up in their name but parents of children with utility debt don't see that it way. >> i was too young clearly this was not me. >> because the name on the bill was me and it was done to help my family. >> keisha agrees. she also knows how difficult it was to clean up her credit history and shake free of debt while in her name didn't really belong to her. >> nobody's going to forgive you for that, not in this world. >> i want to say it's a five to ten years. five to ten years because i was fixing my own debt. it was fixing this debt that was following me. it's a common practice and we don't always talk about it because it's often something we're not proud of but it is how we survived. >> survive the pressures of soaring utility bills shrinking
incomes and the desire for a second chance. >> and that's our show for today. i'm ali velshi. thank you for joining us. >> this week on talk to al jazeera, renowned architect david adjaye. he's designing the smithsonian's national museum of african american history and culture on the mall in washington, d.c. >> i think that what the world will see is that the african american story is not a footnote, but probably the lens to really understand america, to this day. >> from a cancer treatment center in rwanda to an affordable housing project in new york, plus dozens of projects in development around the world, adjaye says he is trying to make architecture relevant. >> i hold the work up the