|Randall Pederson of Tioga Medical holds|
piles of unpaid bills returned from
addresses for people long gone.
(Photo by John McChesney)
According to Darrold Bertsch, president of North Dakota’s Rural Health Association, private insurers pay less in North Dakota than in most other states. And many of these ER patients -- many who come from out-of-state for piecemeal work -- don’t pay their bills. Tioga's Pederson in Tioga says his hospital had to write off $270,000 in bad debt. Other area hospitals report similar collection problems. McChesney reports that North Dakota's McKenzie County Hospital will lose more than half a million dollars this year because of patients' unpaid bills. Likewise, Montrail County Medical Center in Stanley, has 25 to 30 percent of revenue written off to bad debt. In Williston, Mercy Hospital’s bad debt has sky rocketed from a pre-oil-boom $2 million a year to $7 million this year, hardly something rural hospitals can endure for long. Mercy's CEO Matt Grimshaw says most of those charges have been billed to people who have jobs and could afford to pay, but he just can’t find them. Could Obamacare help here, with its mandate that everyone have insurance? In this red state, no one wanted to answer that question, McChesney reports. (Read more)