Hospital Care

Written by Jeremy Horelick
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Hospital care in the United States can cost patients a small fortune and oftentimes provides minimal benefit. Everyone's heard stories of hospital patients being treated for the incorrect ailments or having the wrong limbs amputated. Are such stories true, or are they merely urban legends? Unfortunately, all too often these cases are legitimate, which is enough to beg the question, do hospitals do more harm than good?

The answer to this question depends on whom you ask. For too many uninsured Americans, the emergency room is the only viable option for medical care, even in less-than-dire circumstances. To these patients, public hospitals are a godsend, even if the medical care they give doesn't always come for free. Hospitals are, after all, forbidden from turning away patients in life-threatening circumstances, even in cases of indigence. Many free clinics are closed at night, when accidents occur and illnesses manifest themselves. Emergency rooms are therefore the only real resource.

Managing the Cost of Hospital Care

Even a one-night stay in a county hospital can cost thousands of dollars, a burden which must be assumed by the patient. If he or she has no insurance to pay off this enormous debt, there are a few options available. One is to negotiate the most favorable rate with hospital administrators. While some institutions won't budge, others are more reasonable and willing to make accommodations. To them, a reduced fee is still better than no fee at all.

A second option is to purchase some form of supplemental insurance or temporary medical coverage. In addition to COBRA insurance, many unemployed individuals who have no coverage turn to discount programs that are contracted with hospitals. In return for a fixed monthly fee, these patients receive price breaks of as much as 30, 40, or 50 percent on their hospital care, provided their hospitals are participating members of the program.

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