Yes, rural Kansas is now, in some ways, reminiscent of seventeenth-century England. Why do you ask?: Cory Doctorow: In Kansas's Poor, Sick Places, Hospitals and Debt Collectors Send the Ailing to Debtor's Prison https://boingboing.net/2019/10/16/midwestern-dickens.html: "Kansas is a living laboratory for far-right experimentation with extreme economic cruelty: a state where Medicare expansions were thwarted, where xenophobia has penetrated the state bureaucracy, where a grifty, incompetent lawyer has apologized for slavery and driven women out of his own party, even as neighboring states thrive by tending to the needs of working people, rather than the super-rich. As Kansas sinks into poverty and ruin, its people are growing ever-sicker: poverty is strongly correlated with poor health outcomes, especially in America, where being poor means you can't afford preventative care, and even more especially in Kansas, where limits on Medicare expansion exclude even very poor people from access to subsidized care. Enter hospital debt collectors. Propublica's Lizzie Presser reports from Coffeyville, Kansas, home to Coffeyville Regional Medical Center, the only hospital for 40 miles, now that its rivals have all shut down. In Coffeyville, magistrate judges are appointed, and need no special training to hold the office. Judge David Casement—a cattle rancher who never studied law—presides over medical debt cases, which he hears quarterly at 'debtor's exam' days. At these proceedings, debt-collectors—who do have law degrees, and whom the judge relies heavily on for legal advice—are allowed to quiz sick people, or the parents or spouses of critically ill or dying people, about their assets and income and to ask the judge to order them to divert what little they have to Coffeyville Regional Medical Center, minus the debt-collector's healthy cut. But sick, poor people can't always afford to travel to the courthouse: sometimes, it's because they have to go see a specialist (or take their kid or spouse to see one); sometimes it's because they had to sell their car to make a previous debt payment. When this happens, debt collectors like Michael Hassenplug from Account Recovery Specialists Inc (ARSI) can ask the judge to issue a warrant for the debtor, who is taken to the local jail and hit with 500 in bail. Many can't pay it, and stay in jail (Hassenplug insists that they're not in jail for their debts, but rather for their failure to appear), while others who manage to borrow the 500 often find that it is then surrendered to the hospital and its arm-breakers. Meanwhile, the debts mount: in addition to punitive, usurious interest, the hospital and its debt-collectors reserve the right to lard on fees, fines and penalties...


#noted #2019-11-19

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