Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Adventist Hospital System's Charges to the Uninsured: "There is Nothing Healing About Charging Someone Quadruple"

The Washington Post reported yet another tale of allegations that a health care system abandoned its mission by charging uninsured patients far more than insured ones.
The article chronicles the struggle of an organization called Consejo de Latinos Unidos (Council of United Latinos) against the pricing practices of the Adventist Health System. The organization accused the system of failing to uphold its mission. Given that it is a religiously-affiliated health care system, B. K. Forbes, the leader of Consejo de Latinos Unidos, charged, "it's offensive these hospitals market themselves as providing the healing mission of Christ. There is nothing healing about charging someone quadruple and then sending the bill collectors after them."
Poster child (literally) for the challenge is Rodney Vega, a 7-year old boy who suffers from a brain tumor. His parents, Venezualans and practicing Adventists, claim that Florida Hospital, part of the Adventist Health System, refused to do surgery on Rodney without an upfront payment in the tens of thousands of dollars. "Florida Hospital officials blame the Vegas' plight on miscommunication and misunderstanding." But Ms. Vega said, "the real mission of the church is to help people like Christ did. I don't like Florida Hospital saying they are Adventists."
Forbes' background is interesting. His mother was a Chilean immigrant. He has experience as a Republican political operative, and was involved in the campaigns of Pat Buchanan and Steve Forbes (no relation). "Critics say K.B. Forbes (no relation to Steve Forbes) is a front man for insurance giant and GOP donor J. Patrick Rooney." K. B. Forbes apparently previously challenged the for-profit Tenet Healthcare Corp over the same issue, and according to the Post, was able to get it to agree to discounts for the uninsured. Tenet agreed to help Rodney at St. Christopher's Hospital for Children in Philadelphia at discounted rates.
The article also stated that "Forbes has compiled an avalanche of data on huge compensation packages for Adventist Health executives and the hospital's partnership with the National Basketball Association's Orlando Magic." One of his flyers includes,

We turn people away who need help, price gouge those without health insurance, and use the profits to help millionaire basketball players? Is this what Jesus wants?
A hospital vice-president countered that such ventures are a common "way for hospitals to get involved in the health side." I guess that's one way to put it.

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