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Friday, December 28, 2007

Sick child? Bad Credit? Too bad....no medical care for you (or your child)
Posted by Jill | 4:32 PM
Sound like one of those "Oh, they'd never do that" scenarios?

Guess again

Mortgage lenders aren't the only ones showing more interest in your credit score these days – the health industry is creating its own score to judge your ability to pay.

The new medFICO score, being designed with the help of credit industry giant Fair Isaac Corp., could debut as early as this summer in some hospitals.

Healthcare Analytics, a Waltham, Mass., health technology firm, is developing the score. It is backed by funding from Fair Isaac, of Minneapolis; Dallas-based Tenet Healthcare Corp.; and venture capital firm North Bridge Venture Partners, also based in Waltham. Each kicked in $10 million for the project.

The score is already raising questions from consumer advocacy groups that fear it will be checked before patients are treated. People with low medical credit scores could receive lower-quality care than those with a healthy medFICO, they argue.

"How much assurance do I have that they're not going to look at this medFICO first, before they decide whether to treat or not?" asked Linda Foley, founder of the Identity Theft Resource Center in San Diego.

Post-discharge checking

That will not happen, says Stephen Farber, chairman and chief executive of Healthcare Analytics. Hospitals will check the score, which will be based on the patient's medical bill payment history, only after the patient is discharged, he said.

"We only come into play once the patient has been treated and discharged, and the bill already exists," said Mr. Farber, who has visited hospital executives nationwide over the last six months to sell the concept. "We just help figure out what sort of relief a hospital should grant the patient."

And I am Marie of Rumania.

Do you honestly believe that hospitals are only going to look at this AFTER the bill exists?

Let's look back at Nataline Sarkysian again, shall we? Here's a situation where the hospital deemed that a liver transplant was appropriate, and CIGNA Insurance refused to pay for it. The wingnut apologists for the highly profitable insurance industry insist that it's the hospital's fault that she died because they didn't go ahead and do the transplant anyway. Given the battles that hospitals are fighting with insurance companies; battles that eat up physician time and hospital resources, why shouldn't the hospital just evaluate the patient's ability to pay beforehand and make a decision based on that?

Dday over at Hullabaloo nails it:

Seriously, this is hideous. It used to be that the medical care industry, particularly the insurance companies had to use some prior injury as a basis to deny coverage. Now it's some years-old debt that hospitals can use to hang over your head and deny care. Enough. Health care is a human right. It's not a privilege of the wealthy. Willingness to pay is a metric that can be abused to the nth degree to deny treatment to the sick. It will create another tier to the medical system; you have the uninsured, the wealthy who can afford the best, and now the discount class who can't afford access to the good stuff.

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