Medical Bill Lottery

Two nights a year, Tennessee holds a health care lottery of sorts, giving the medically desperate a chance to get help. State residents who have high medical bills but would not normally qualify for Medicaid, the government health care program for the poor, can call a state phone line and request an application. But the window is tight — the line shuts down after 2,500 calls, typically within an hour — and the demand is so high that it is difficult to get through.

This is from the NYT. Aaron Carroll deplores it.

Comments (8)

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  1. Studebaker says:

    Public health advocate take the notion of fairness too far. Rather than praise every form of generosity to the less fortunate, advocates instead criticizes it. This from Dr. Carroll at The Incidental Economist:

    Yes, a lottery. That’s how the truly needy can hope to get care in the richest country in the world.

    Sometimes I can get snarky when I talk about health care in the US. But I try – really hard – not to get emotional. This article made that difficult. Is this really a health care system which we can be proud of? Seriously?

    I grow weary of hearing about how we are the “richest country in the world and yet provide paltry health benefits to the poor. Health care is provided for free to the poorest, and the oldest segments of society. Generous public subsidies assist many of those in between. The bottom line is: health care is very costly if you want access to the latest, life-saving technology. Medical coverage (and care) is worth anywhere from, say, $5,000 per year to $500,000 per year depending on a person’s circumstances. As a nation, we cannot afford to merely dole out huge checks like this. Those who want free health care for all fail to appreciate the huge unfunded liabilities Americans will face at mid-century. Why cannot well-meaning advocates understand free health care is not free?

  2. Andrea Wilson says:

    It saddens me to see how this is one of the few options the poor has to not drawn in medical debt. It’s not about giving free health care to those in most need, but about giving them good/reliable options. Medical lottery? Not sure about that.

  3. Oscar Jones says:

    Seriously? Health care shouldn’t be about giving better opportunties and providing more help to those “lucky ones”. It should be about rationally assisting those who need it the most, and work down the list to help everyone in it (or as many people as possible) according to the severity of their situation. It shouldn’t be a game, it should definitely be taken a little bit more seriously than this…I think.

  4. Gabriel Odom says:

    This is a discussion of normative versus positive economics. Of course we feel appalled at these stories, and well we should. This is a normative debate – on what should be. However, we have to realize that the debate is rather more positive than this. We must discuss what is. Everyone supports health care for the poor, until you ask them to empty their bank. This is when we realize, we are very generous with other’s money. The fact of the matter is, health care is not cheap. Rather than drowning in the futility of mandating care for the poor and infirm, we should instead work to reduce the cost of healthcare. These costs are increasing steadily for the same reason that education costs have risen – government monies.

  5. Peterson says:

    Good to see the Great State of Tennessee making an effort to help others!

  6. Amy says:

    This is a GREAT approach that Tennessee is using to reach out to those living in very poor conditions that can’t afford to pay for their medical bills. However, are they really “helping them” or are they just “spoiling them”? It seems most people that get this type of financial aid just take advantage of it for the wrong reasons.

  7. Patel says:

    This post just breaks my heart. What is wrong with our health care system? Why does it cost so much just to have access to some kind of decent service. Apparently getting an advil in a hospital costs 10 bucks. There is something really wrong with this sector.

  8. Al says:

    Studebaker, not only does one grow weary of such comments, but one wonders how serious Aaron can be when he is unable to tolerate honest and polite differences of opinion and thus deletes or refuses to post them on his blog comments site. That means he doesn’t want to hear anything outside of his vision of how things should be. Instead he gets very hot and angry so I suppose that he just doesn’t have the answers to back up his inane statements.

    Of course things should be better than they are, but that requires cool heads that are not blind to alternative thoughts and opinions.