Many big business CEOs turn out to be grifters who rip off consumers, workers, and others. But the corporate con artists I consider most vile are those who profiteer from people’s health care needs.

We’ve had such infamous, high-profile scammers as Medicare fraudster (and now Florida Senator) Rick Scott, Big Pharma price gouger Martin Shkreli, and the Sackler family of opioid pushers. Even worse, we now face an industry-wide epidemic of insurers, hospitals, and others that are pushing higher costs onto patients and then systematically pushing those who can’t pay the full inflated tab into debt schemes.

With bloated interest charges, payments go on for years. Now wonder medical bankruptcies are soaring.

The most significant statistic in today’s avaricious world of health care finance is this: Half of U.S. adults don’t have the money to cover a $500 medical bill.

Thus, as the system keeps jacking up its prices and profits, millions of families are forced by illness or injury into the dark valley of debt, inhabited by ruthless debt collectors employed by the medical establishment.

But wait, you say, I have health insurance! Still, ever-rising prices and out-of-pocket insurance requirements can put you into debt, too. A recent Kaiser Family Foundation survey found that 6 out of 10 working-age adults with health coverage went into medical debt in the past five years.

Most perversely, health care debt prevents many people from getting health care.

One in seven Americans say the corporate system has refused care to them because they have unpaid medical bills, and two-thirds say they’ve put off care because of the fear of crushing debt.

As one expert puts it: “The No.1 reason — and the No. 2, 3, and 4 reasons — that people go into medical debt is they don’t have the money. It’s not complicated.”

To help stop the health industry’s grifters and profiteers, go to RIPMedicalDebt.org.

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Jim Hightower

OtherWords columnist Jim Hightower is a radio commentator, writer, and public speaker. This op-ed was distributed by OtherWords.org.

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