News & Politics

After Being Taken To Wrong Hospital While Unconscious, Woman Faces Bankruptcy From Medical Bills

If she'd been taken to another hospital three blocks away, her insurance would have covered the costs.

American health care is unique among the industrialized nations in how many people it drives to bankruptcy. Medical bills were linked to two-thirds of bankruptcies in the 2007, despite the fact that most of those going bankrupt had insurance.

There is no more striking case of this than what happened to Megan Rothbauer in Madison, Wisconsin. Rothbauer had a cardiac arrest last September and was left in a coma. Emergency rescuers did not have time to check her insurance to see which hospital to take her to, so they drove her to the emergency room at St. Mary's Hospital instead of Meriter Hospital, which is located three blocks farther away. Those three blocks cost Rothbauer over $50,000, because St. Mary's is not covered by her insurance's network, and Meriter is.

"I was in a coma. I couldn't very well wake up and say, 'Hey, take me to the next hospital.' It was the closest hospital to where I had my event, so naturally the ambulance took me there. No fault to them. It's unfortunate that Meriter is in network and was only three blocks away from St. Mary's,” Rothbauer told local news station Channel 3000. Watch Meriter explain her ordeal

37 percent of patients have reportedly skipped a doctor visit altogether due to costs. In the United Kingdom, that number is four percent.

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