August 31, 2022

‘Confused, frustrated, helpless’: How medical billing impacts Maine people

An August 21 article by health reporter Joe Lawlor in the Portland Press Herald delves into the “byzantine” system of medical billing in Maine and how it affects Maine people. Lawlor talked with more than 100 who responded to a call for medical billing stories and profiled nine in the article.

From hidden charges such as “facility fees” to insurance companies denying coverage for tests and medications that doctors prescribe, to the difficulties of finding out what a procedure will cost, the article shines a light on how broken our current health care system is, and highlights the need for a simplified, publicly financed system that covers everyone.

Read the article and an accompanying piece on people’s stories at the links below.

Hidden charges, denied claims: Medical bills leaves patients confused, frustrated, helpless

In their own words: Nine Mainers talk about their medical billing nightmares


A problem not unique to Maine, but uniquely American

Earlier this summer, reporting by NPR and Kaiser Health News told the stories of people across the U.S. who live with medical debt.

Medical debt upended their lives. Here’s what it took from them

This story is part of an ongoing series, Diagnosis: Debt.

The U.S. is the only developed country in the world with a health care system that allows these problems—medical billing nightmares, medical debt, and medical bankruptcies—to happen.


Maine views

Several letters to the editor have been published by the Press Herald since publication of the medical billing article.

Billing coverage makes case for publicly financed Maine care system

Karen Foster, Maine AllCare board chair

Free market health care dysfunction at root of medical billing problems

George McNeil, MD

Private insurers driving up medical costs

Bruce Bartrug

Would you like to write a letter to the editor in support of universal healthcare? Check out this guidance on how to write an effective letter—and why they are so important. And feel free to contact us if you’d like help!

PNHP resources 

Physicians for a National Health Program has resources on “surprise billing” on their website, as part of their Kitchen Table Campaign. Check out the video by Dr. Farzon Nahvi, an emergency room physician in New York City, and see why he and other physicians “prescribe” universal health care and Medicare for All.

Quote of the month

“The insurance company is essentially saying it is logical to go against your doctor’s wishes for their financial considerations.”

–Ed Latham, one of nine Mainers with nightmare medical billing stories profiled by the Portland Press Herald

By the numbers

100 million people in the U.S. live with medical debt.

(That’s a little less than a third of the entire U.S. population.)

Diagnosis: Debt

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Maine AllCare promotes the establishment of publicly funded healthcare coverage for all Maine residents. This system must be efficient, financially sound, politically sustainable and must provide benefits fairly distributed to all. Maine AllCare advocates that healthcare, a basic necessity, be treated as a public good, since it is fundamental to our well-being as individuals and as a democratic nation.

Maine AllCare is a chapter of Physicians for a National Health Program.

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