Chicago Tribune Editorial on “Medical Credit Scores”

There’s an editorial by a physician in the Chicago Tribune today advocating for more federal oversight of hospitals as regards credit reporting and billing.  As I don’t work in the after-care billing side of medicine I’m not well versed to say anything about that.

I am very aware that his argument calling for this expanded role is, to put it mildly, so nonsensical as to be laughable.

Here’s the ‘scare’ he’s concerned about:

…An even more ominous threat would be prescreening patients before medical treatment is provided. A patient’s low health credit score could affect medical decisions or alternatively serve as a pretext for denying the patient care. Armed with a patient’s health credit score, an emergency room triage nurse or medical administrator could do a quick medical screening before registering a patient and decide to refer the patient to another hospital because he is a bad financial risk. (By not registering a patient, a hospital might be able to skirt federal laws that make it illegal for hospitals to refuse patients emergency care.)

The law he’s alluding to is EMTALA, which prohibits just such a financial screening.  There’s no cutout in EMTALA for ‘can I do a credit check on you before we register you for care’?  It’s a goofy premise.

The remainder of the above paragraph:

There are built-in protections for patients, including the Health Insurance and Portability and Accountability Act, and several credit laws offer protection to consumers.

And, again, EMTALA.  So, the big fear is that hospitals will do wallet biopsies using credit scores, except there are already legal prohibitions against it, so let’s insist on more oversight for a non-existent, daydreamed-maybe-future problem.

Interesting he’s refuted his own contention, yet still goes on to advocate for more governmental oversight in an adversarial role with hospitals.  Strange premise, a self-refuting argument then an unsupported conclusion, but other than that it’s fine.

Don’t waste your time.


  1. Is he talking about non-emergency care, outside of EMTALA? He mentions ED personnel, but maybe his objection is that ANY care might be denied to deadbeats.

  2. ERdocDFW says:

    Have you considered contacting him to tell him how flawed his thinking is? People in the media, when the publish things like this, just spread ignorance to the masses.

  3. TheNewGuy says:

    This guy’s a physician?

    He can’t be a practicing ER doc.

  4. The guy is a physician, practicing in Illinois since 1978. I think he is a critical care doc. I don’t know what they’re doing in Illinois. n California i haven’t seen use of a credit score for any kind of pre-screening, yet! I do know many hospitals will not hesitate to send a collection agency after patients for non-payment. Many hospitals will ask for a credit card to guarantee payment during registration. They don’t mention the fact that patients can refuse, and that EMTALA madates screening with or without payment.
    I would not be surprised if some hospitals started doing what retail stores do when they issue on the spot credit, and send the card and bill in the mail, using a credit check to verify addresses and insure future payment.


  5. ATX Patient says:

    So recently I had a hospital stay where they billed insurance – they took care of their part – now its my turn.

    Turned into a rather long stay and as such the bill is a little high.

    Yet, when I called to set up the payment plan, I was told that I had to pay more or they would send me to the collections agency right away for non-payment. They did pressure me for a credit card or checking account number (not provided). I requested to speak with a supervisor and was informed that I could not and the call was ended.

    Guess I am going to collections.

    I understand they want their money – You fine folks want your money and I want to pay you too. However, I am not going to put the bill on a credit card and pay 3 + times the amount of the stay in interest.

    I am going to pay what I can every month till my debit is paid.

    Thats my experience (rant) on the issue.

    Please continue to do the good work you Doc’s / RN’s do for everyone. Your not the billing department.


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