A Right to Arms, But Not Shoulders

Back in March, our gracious bloghost John Cole wrote a post about his shoulder surgery:

… I fell on the ice while carrying my dog and managed to land in such a way that I dislocated my shoulder, shattered my glenoid in multiple places, wrecked my labrum, detached my bicep, and basically decimated my shoulder. I had surgery close to six weeks ago to have everything rebuilt… it is time for the bills to come in. And mind you, I am not complaining, just highlighting how expensive everything is… [T]he total dollar value on a bionic shoulder in West Virginia is: About $28,000.
There are a couple of things to keep in mind. The $28k price tag is because I have insurance. If I did not, there is no doubt in my mind that the total bill would be closer to 100k. As we know, those without insurance are basically robbed by hospitals and charged double, triple, and even quadruple what this with insurance are charged.
Second, if I did not have insurance, there is a solid chance I probably would not have 100k lying around to replace my shoulder. So I could probably get my surgery done, and then would choose between being in debt my entire life or declaring bankruptcy. But would I get the same care I got? I very seriously doubt it. I saw the best surgeon in my area, a member of the American College of Surgeons and a specialist on shoulder injuries. I got fantastic overnight pain management and monitoring of my condition at the hospital. I am getting excellent therapy at a premiere rehab place. Would all that be true if I were uninsured and broke?…

And now we have one possible answer:

Kathy Myers, a 41-year-old woman from the broke-ass wasteland known commonly as Michigan, recently shot herself in the shoulder hoping that emergency doctors would also have to fix a different shoulder injury while they were working on her. They didn’t.
Myers hurt her shoulder while playing with her dogs in her yard… and, as one of the 1.2 million folks in Michigan without health insurance, had to endure weeks of pain without treatment. Finally she decided to take matters drastically into her own hands.
“They said it would have to be life-threatening or imminent danger for them to do anything, so I was making it be imminent danger that something had to be done.”
In addition to not getting her shoulder fixed — they took care of the bullet wound but not the other injury — Myers might face criminal charges for discharging a firearm within the city limits of Niles, MI.

The link goes to Richard Lawson’s Gawker post, where the comments are thoughtful and sometimes heartbreaking. The comments at the Daily News article that Lawson linked are… not.

And I should probably point out that Niles is in the “nice” part of Michigan (mostly Caucasian, rural-turned-bedroom-suburb, Dutch Reform stronghold, not far from Blackwater’s birthplace) and that Michigan actually has better legislative safeguards for the uninsured than most states. Everybody’s broke and desperate, is the problem.

71 replies
  1. 1
    El Cid says:

    Are there no workhouses?

  2. 2

    A friend posted this on FB. I just shook my head in dismay and sadness. Best damn healthcare in the world, indeed.

  3. 3
    El Cid says:

    @asiangrrlMN: Yeah, but in Canada she might have had to wait even longer than a few weeks, although she wouldn’t have had to blow her shoulder off, and they would have fixed the actual broke shoulder. Other than that, clearly worse though.

  4. 4

    @El Cid: Oh, right, because sockulism makes for unbearable waiting for everyone. Hey, wait a minute–if I schedule something with a doc (like surgery), I usually can’t get in under a month if it’s not life-threatening.

  5. 5
    Martin says:

    See, people! The goddamn liberals are trying to take away your 2nd amendment right to healthcare. Rush was right!

  6. 6
    PeakVT says:

    But our troops found lithium somewhere not far from the ass-end of the world, so everything will be cool now.

  7. 7
    El Cid says:

    Bobo prime is upset because we are about to throw away our free democratic capitalism so to become Russia or Venezuela (‘state capitalism’), because he read this book by this one guy and it made him think that our understandably frightened pants-shitting about that whole Wall Street thing and the BP oil volcano we might let Obama be fevered enough over BP and all the other shit that maybe someone, I’m not saying, um, ought to have Obama stop and think, because, you know, if not he’s gonna make us Comm’nist Chiner!

    If you think I’m exaggerating, go look. And figure out why in this utter fucking collapse of deregulated, anti-welfare state capitalism, there’s something other than a naked, class war propaganda reason for Bobo to feel like he should be warning us about this?

    These fuckers hate us. People like Bobo fucking despise us — you know, the ordinary schmucks who continue to fail to learn the right lessons, such that they keep the good folks like Brooks perpetually uncomfortable that they and their weird political representatives are at any moment a hair’s breadth away from sending us all to work in communes and the super giant state factory which produces all national goods.

    God, damn but these people get treated like celebrity sages who get on TV so as to spout bullshit like this. My god, in the words of Mike Malloy, have I mentioned tonight how much I hate these people?

  8. 8
    El Cid says:

    @asiangrrlMN: I’m just wondering why those statist interfering paramedics showed up to mess with her shoulder’s right to demonstrate the free exercise of the 2nd Amendment, hallowed be its name and blessings be upon it.

  9. 9
    Little Boots says:

    Oh this goddam shitty system isn’t gonna fuck up every comment tonight, is it?

  10. 10
    Little Boots says:

    well, apparently not EVERY comment.

  11. 11

    @El Cid: You’re lucky you made me laugh with this comment because I was just about to ask for a fake-separation. I foolishly read Brooks’ Op-Ed, and now, I have the insatiable need to punch a wall. He is an idiot. We have to embrace BP, otherwise, we’ll be like Venezuela? How the fuck does that even–no, forget it. I don’t want to know how Brooks’ mind works. By the way, I get Bobo, but Bobo prime?

  12. 12
    Little Boots says:

    The health care thing is a rolling stone. I really do think it will end in total, universal, real health care, but it ain’t gonna be easy or nearly as quick as it should be.

  13. 13
    El Cid says:

    @asiangrrlMN: So fickle is your love? Relationship tests are but an eruption of doubt.

  14. 14
    Yutsano says:

    The way hospitals save money on ERs (which they’re obligated to have under Medicare rules) is by only going as far as life stabilization. That’s it. After that, you are discharged to seek whatever medical advice and assistance you can afford. And ERs are big fiscal losers for hospitals, so they make it up in other ways, like charging the uninsured a fortune and a half. So while what the hospital did was disgusting, it is not technically illegal. And stories like this will keep coming out to be used against the HCR. Cuz no matter what Obama must be teh fail!

    @asiangrrlMN: You forgot the caveat hon: best healthcare in the world IF YOU CAN AFFORD IT. I got the bill for my surgery and I was flabbergasted as to how LOW it was. Allah forbid how much it would have been without me being insured up the yin-yang.

    Oh and hi hon.

  15. 15

    @Little Boots: You are more optimistic than am I. I think it’s gonna completely fall apart first. Too many selfish bastards in our country. Then again, I think our whole country is gonna explode pretty damn soon, so YMMV.

    @El Cid: But it was David Brooks at his most patronizing and paternalistic centrist prissy self. That’s enough to test anyone’s affection, I would think!

    @Yutsano: I know. It’s in the tag, though, so I didn’t want to be repetitive. And, hi. I was wondering where you were. It was kinda weird to see FH#3 at this time, but not you.

  16. 16
    Little Boots says:

    How I love Balloon Juice!

    How i HATE trying to comment on it!

  17. 17
    mclaren says:

    Everyone keep congratulating themselves that the health care crisis in this country is solved.

    It isn’t solved. It’s getting worse. The HCR non-reform legislation that was passed is accelerating cost increases. We’re going to see more and more stories like this in the news. And as these kind of atrocities become more common, public anger will grow.

    Someone on another thread mentioned “IEDs are the new class equalizer.” That thought is going to start to occur to a lot of newly-bankrupt formerly middle class people who lost everything because they got sick, and when it does…watch out.

    Someone in this thread asked “Are there no workhouses?” Giggle giggle, tee hee.

    Turns out debtors prisons are now making a comeback in the good old US of A. See In jail for being in debt.

    So after Joe Six Pack slips and shatters his shoulder, then loses his house and still owes a hundred grand, the judge throws him in jail for being in debt.

    That’s the point at which police cars and courthouses start blowing up. That’s the point at which hospitals start burning down and doctors get dragged out of their Porsches by screaming mobs.

    Sadly, I have to agree with Asiangrrl above:

    I think it’s gonna completely fall apart first.

    The crowning irony and immense tragedy of it all is that we have a simple easy to duplicate model for national health care that works — Europe and Canada. We simply refuse to emulate it.

  18. 18
    Little Boots says:

    Good Christ, this is the shittiest commenting software in the blogosphere, I swear to Christ.

  19. 19
    Little Boots says:

    It ain’t solved, mclaren, it’s only just begun. But it has begun, and it will not stop. It’s like takin care of old people. Once you start, it does not stop. Think voters.

  20. 20

    @Little Boots: I’m not laughing at you, but it’s kinda funny that all your comments about not being able to comment make it through moderation.

    @Little Boots: I really hope you are right. I am probably one of the most negative people I know, so I really hope I’m wrong. But, many voters are stupid. See, Baggers of the Tea. They will vote against their best interests every time.

  21. 21
    Yutsano says:

    @asiangrrlMN: I have a friend in Canada who had a melanoma on his skin. He was scared out of his mind. He scheduled his appointments with the relative doctors, had his tests and surgeries, and follow-up care, all within two months. He didn’t pay a single dime and is to this day cancer-free. He also has HIV and is getting some of the best treatment in the world, and pays $60 a month for his medications (RedKitten can confirm this, but drug coverage varies by province, and he lives in B.C.), so every time I hear about how bad Canadian health care is I either laugh my ass off or choke on whatever I’m drinking and check the idiot level of the speaker. They do have their issues, mostly dealing with speciaIists and wait times for non-emergencies, but if you look at the numbers compared to the US, it’s not as bad as it’s made out to be. Shorter me: we r doing it wrong.

  22. 22
    denverjeninpdx says:

    It isn’t often that I gasp out loud to news items anymore. Sadly, I am getting too jaded. But someone seriously shot themselves to receive medical attention in what is supposed to be a first world nation? Wow. And then, after going to such lengths, didn’t even get any help for the original injury. This story is so sad on so many levels, I hardly know what to do with it.

    I spent the last two weekends at weddings with largely republican family members and I heard the term Obamacare over and over again. I also heard that we have the best health care system in the world. What a joke.

  23. 23
    Mike Kay says:

    and yet there are liberal ideologues want to repeal HCR. such attitudes are enough to make anyone permanently angry.

  24. 24
    Mark S. says:

    @El Cid:

    Jesus, that was a heaping pile offered up for us by Bobo. These poor widdle oil companies? WTF? They seem to be doing all right. I count 6 of the top 7 biggest companies in the world right there.

    And I loved this part:

    Moreover, democratic regimes have shown their vulnerabilities of late: a tendency to make unaffordable promises to the elderly and other politically powerful groups

    Bobo won’t be happy until 3/4 of the elderly are eating cat food so his Wall Street asshole friends can buy their fifth houses. I hate these people as well.

  25. 25

    @Yutsano: No kidding. And yet, many Americans seriously believe we have the best healthcare in the world, without the asterisk (see denverjeninpdx’s post right below yours). That is why I despair sometimes. The fact is, after the last eight years, the Dems should be able to propose anything and have the people of America on their side. Instead, it’s more of the same old, same old.

  26. 26
    Yutsano says:

    @Mike Kay: They really want to repeal HCR because the folks who get rich on the health care system as it is now are commanding that the status quo not be altered or they will take their money and support candidates who will change nothing. It also started what will be a continuing discussion in the years and decades to come. I supported HCR mostly because I knew this would not be the endgame, but rather the start of an ongoing national discussion. Plus it’s a sea change, it is now national policy that health care is a right rather than a privilege. That’s huge.

    @asiangrrlMN: We’ve been saying over and over again that you can’t undo thirty years of poisonous ideology in a short amount of time. At least not without a national trauma like post WWII Germany and Japan had. And we’re still the big bullies on the block so no one is going to threaten our government and society any time soon. This is a long game, and that’s an important focus. But so are the short-term victories.

  27. 27
    Little Boots says:

    It’s not moderation, asiangrrl, it’s this truly crappy software.

  28. 28
    El Cid says:

    @Mark S.: If only our governing elites could for once pursue an agenda not totally controlled by the immense and crushing power of Big Granny.

  29. 29
    Little Boots says:

    and teabaggers won’t vote against their interests every time. Try to take social security or medicare away and you will hear a roar that will deafen Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh, and Glenn Beck combined … from the anti-government Tea Baggers.

  30. 30
    Little Boots says:

    And that’s where Obama got it right, ultimately: just ignore the objections and all the horseshit, just do whatever you can get done and the rest will follow, inevitably.

  31. 31
    El Cid says:

    @Mark S.: How often have I said — even here — that Bobo Prime’s function is to introduce into a polite and friendly audience the disgusting bullshit on the right in some supposedly more acceptable form.

    You know who’s out there saying, maybe not so politely and indirectly, rather more honestly than Brooks ranting that Obama’s just a couple of steps from making the U.S. into Venezuela and Zimbabwe and Russia and Cuba?

    Yeah, fucking Hannity, and Beck, and the Birchers, and the TeaTards, and the nutballs carrying “NO TO SOSHULLISM” signs and all that.

    But, c’mon, this is Bobo, he’s nice, everyone likes him, he’s soft, he’s gentle, he smiles, he even said nice things about Obama before!

  32. 32

    @Little Boots: So sorry to hear. I hope the rest of your comments are able to make it into print. I agree with you about Medicare and Social Security–until Rush explains it to them in a way that will make sense to them.

    @Yutsano: I know that it’s gonna take a long time. I just fear that our country will explode before we can reach the endgame. The culture warriors are not gonna go quietly into the night, and I don’t know how much more the country can bend without breaking.

    @El Cid: When? When has Brooks ever said anything nice about Obama? And, please explain the Prime part. I agree, though, that he’s more dangerous because he’s a purported liberal, right? So even the liberal David Brooks, etc., etc., etc.

  33. 33
    Mike Kay says:


    Plus it’s a sea change, it is now national policy that health care is a right rather than a privilege. That’s huge.

    As some one else said, “this is a big fucking deal!

  34. 34
    Little Boots says:

    But even Rush won’t do that. Bush tried, and failed, spectacularly. These old fucks need their checks, and no ideology will stand between them and their money. That makes all the difference.

  35. 35
    Yutsano says:

    @Little Boots: You’re reminding me of this Frum column I had the unfortunate circumstance of reading today:


    Not only do I seem to miss his point (that happens a lot with Frum) but it screams ZOMG HE DOEZ TOO MUCH! WHY IZ HE NOT TEH FAIL YET??

    And on that note I need to crash out. Night y’all.

  36. 36
    Mike Kay says:


    The culture warriors are not gonna go quietly into the night

    Perhaps it would be good if Roe v Wade is overturnned. The fundies would become largely complacent.

  37. 37
    Hypnos says:

    From the Constitution of the Republic of Italy:

    Article 32 [Health]
    (1) The republic protects individual health as a basic right and in the public interest; it provides free medical care to the poor.
    (2) Nobody may be forcefully submitted to medical treatment except as regulated by law. That law may in no case violate the limits imposed by the respect for the human being.

    There are few good things in this country. This is one of them.

  38. 38
    LikeableInMyOwnWay says:

    Well I got good news and bad news. The good news is that I have had solid gold health insurance for many years, and just in the last 5 of those years, they’ve paid for around $250k worth of care for my household. Care I would not have gotten, or would have had to go broke for, had the insurance not been there. I am paying this year an average of $200+ a week for this insurance out of my own pocket.

    The bad news is that we sat here on these very pages last year and watched supposedly intelligent people talk seriously about scrapping the healthcare reform bill, the first viable one in my lifetime which goes back to 1946, because it didn’t “do enough” or failed to have some favorite provision.

    The country is full of self centered, stupid people who would gladly cut off their noses to spite their faces to prove some point or win some seemingly important political victory, and thanks to them it’s taken all these years to finally get us on the road to real healthcare reforms, and we still have a lot of fighting to do to keep it going and make it better.

    The poor woman in Michigan has my complete sympathy. She reminds me of the character Muley in The Grapes of Wrath, who, seeing his house about to be knocked down during the Dust Bowl by bulldozers sent by the bank to get him off his land, points his gun at the bulldozer operator, who tells Muley he is just doing his job and that if Muley shoots, they will just send another dozer.

    Muley says plaintively, “Well, who do I shoot?”

    Alas, the woman in Michigan apparently had to shoot herself.

  39. 39
    Little Boots says:

    In fact, it will be a few short years before national health care is one of those things that Republicans just don’t talk about, the way contemporary Democrats just don’t talk about gun control.

  40. 40
    Mark S. says:

    @El Cid:

    His mask has been slipping lately. People were still dying in Haiti while he was blaming them for being lazy Negros.

  41. 41

    @Yutsano: Night, hon. I already read Tamny and Brooks. Not gonna read Frum, too.

    @Mike Kay: Oh, HELL, no!

    I agree with this:

    The country is full of self centered, stupid people who would gladly cut off their noses to spite their faces to prove some point or win some seemingly important political victory, and thanks to them it’s taken all these years to finally get us on the road to real healthcare reforms, and we still have a lot of fighting to do to keep it going and make it better.

    The Dems have been trying for decades to get reform passed. I’m afraid there is gonna be a battle every step of the way from hereon out.

    And with that cheerful comment, I’m out.

  42. 42
    Mark S. says:


    Yeah, I think I’ve reached my wingnut reading limit as well. I still want to punch that Tamny guy in the face.

  43. 43
    El Cid says:

    @Mark S.: About the most uplifting interpretation of this particular Bobo bolshie warning is that his buddies a few steps away from the super-ultra-rich are nervous that the times may in fact lead to much stronger measures than seem viable now.

  44. 44
    mclaren says:

    Plus it’s a sea change, it is now national policy that health care is a right rather than a privilege. That’s huge.

    Would be huge if it were true.

    Show me the law that says you have a right to healthcare in America.

    You don’t. You have the right to pay whatever an insurance company demands in order to get healthcare.

    But what if you can’t pay?

    Either you get fined by the IRS (which, if you can’t pay for health insurance, is going to impoverish you on top of your illness, which is truly despicably cruel and sadistic — like flogging a woman because she got raped, or beating a small child because he has tooth cavities) or you get dumped on the state medicaid rolls.

    And guess what?

    The states are too broke to pay for their high-risk insurance pools, so that money’s already running out. By the end of this year it’ll be gone. And then what happens to all those chronically ill people who can’t afford health insurance because they’ve got lingering debilitating illnesses?

    That’s right…they get thrown out on the street because the states are slashing their payments for medical care right and left. California is talking about wiping out its entire medicaid program. All of it. Zeroed out. Gone. Disappeared. Other states are following suit.

    “States driven to make deeper cuts in medicaid” (Washington Post) and “Disabled face hard choices as states slash medicaid” (Wall Street Journal) and “Medicaid: states’ 24 billion dollar black hole” (the “money” section of CNN).

    There is no mythical “right” to medical care mandated by the HCR bill. The only thing the HCR bill mandated is that you have to pay whatever greedy collusive medical devicemaker-doctor-insurer cartels demand you pay, which keeps going up and up and up and up and up and up and up and up and up and up and up and up and up and up and up and up and up and up and up and up and up and up and up and up and up and up and up and up and up and up and up and up and up and up and up and up and up and up and up and up and up and up and up and up and up and up and up and up and up and up and up and up and up and up and up and up and up and up and up and up and up and up and up and up and up and up and up and up and up and up and up and up and up and up and up and up and up and up every year, decade after decade, exponentially increasing, without limit, no cost controls, no excess profit tax, no income cap for insurance CEOs, no greed tax for doctors who prescribe fantastically expensive medications instead of the generic stuff and who perform insanely overpriced unnecessary surgeries, no windfall profits tax for medical devicemakers who manufacture disposable surgical instruments for $30 and bill hospitals $1200 for them, no excess profits tax for hospitals that charge $50 for every aspirin and $100 for each cotton ball… No, the costs just keep spiralling out of control as a result of corruption and collusion and non-disclosure agreements between doctors and hospitals and sweetheart “lock-in” contracts between medical devicemakers and insurers.

    Various deluded people spout nonsense like this, from Daily Kos:

    In order to solve the accelerating cost problem, the health care reform puts downward pressure on premiums, restricts the usage of claim denials, and restricts the proportion of costs that can go to administrative overhead.

    But these are not the primary drivers of skyrocketing health care costs. The prime drivers of high American health care costs are [1] absurdly high doctors’ and medical technicians’ salaries (average doctor in America makes $200,000 while doctors in Europe typically make at most half that, and in some European countries no more $50,000 a year, while the typical radiological technician or starting-level nurse makes $48,000, which is at least twice what these kinds of relatively low-skilled people make elsewhere in the world. See “The Medical Cartel: Why are MD Salaries So High?” The high doctor salaries are caused by the medical cartel turning away 57% of medical school applicants. “One reason we might have a `health care crisis’ due to rising medical costs, and the world’s highest physician salaries is that we turn away 57.3% of the applicants to medical schools. What we have is a form of a `medical cartel,: which significantly restricts the supply of physicians, and thereby gives its members monopoly power to charge above-market prices for their services.”); [2] insanely overpriced medical equipment (medical devices that cost $30 to manufacture get sold for $1200 or more); [3] doctors who persist in prescribing fabulously expensive medical procedures, even though the scientific evidence shows overwhelmingly that these expensive medical procedures either don’t improve outcomes, or actually harm the patient; [4] doctors who set up imaging labs and medical test labs that overbill hospitals by insane amounts for simple trivial procedures like blood panels; [5] hospitals that enter into corrupt collusive contracts with doctors to make sure the doctors get a constant stream of business; [6] insurers that enter into sweetheart lock-in contracts with hospitals forcing the insurer to use that hospital regardless of expense; and [7] monopoly cartels of health insurers that lock entire geographic areas into a single health insurance provider, forcing them to pay whatever the health insurance cartel demands.

    (For evidence of the above, see the story “Experts warn of medical cartels’ power,” San Francisco Examiner, 25 February 2010. )

    None of these sources of cost increases are dealt with in the current HCR bill. None of them. Not one.

    So the only right you have involving medical care in this country is to pay…and pay…and pay…and pay until you can’t pay any more, and then either lose your house and your car (because you don’t qualify for state medicaid if you have assets over $3000) or get thrown out on the street when you can’t pay the half million dollar bill for your medical procedure and you declare bankruptcy.

    Some “right.”

    A CT scan in America costs between $950 and $3200. The exact same CT scan in France with the exact same machine costs $212.

    The drug Lipitor costs between $125 and $335. In Germany, the exact same Lipitor dose costs $48.

    A CBC chem 7 blood panel costs $125 in America. The exact same CBC chem 7 blood test in France costs $15.

    Explain to me how the HCR bill cut costs. Explain to me how the HCR bill gives anyone any kind of “right” other than the right to pay and pay and pay and pay these outrageous over-the-top excessive costs, 5x to 7x to 50x the cost of the exact same procedure in any other G7 country.

  45. 45
    hamletta says:

    @LikeableInMyOwnWay: Yah, I only just got a job that has insurance, and I’m 47.

    Lucky for me I’m of hardy peasant stock.

    Lord know what the doctors will find when I visit them again after my misspent youth, middle age, whatever.

    That weird mole under my right shoulder blade will probably be the death of me.

  46. 46
    hamletta says:

    mclaren@mclaren: Your namesake was far more subtle, God rest his soul.

  47. 47
    wengler says:

    I think the worst thing about the American health system is how hopelessly corrupt it is. Doctors order way to many tests for the sole reason of getting paid and spend way too little time with the patients.

    The ‘capitalist’ system of public health management also leads to a dearth of general physicians in favor of lucrative specializations, weakening our overall health system and once again creating inefficiencies that cost a ton of money and make us less healthy overall.

  48. 48
    stuckinred says:

    @mclaren: Delta is ready when you are.

  49. 49
    bob h says:

    After I had my gallbladder removed last Fall, spending one night in the hospital, I got a bill in which the uninsured price was $18,000. My insurance company only had to pay $2000 or so.

    One can imagine the uninsured forcing themselves to live with the pain, until it gets so bad pancreatitis forces them to the ER for days of hospital stays.

  50. 50
    Hiram Taine says:

    @stuckinred: America, love it or leave it, eh?

    @mclaren: This, a thousand times this..

  51. 51
    fucen tarmal says:

    now you know, there is no way the doctors could have fixed the shoulder while they were in there for the bullet, once people discovered that loophole there would be no turning back, people with common colds would be shooting themselves in the er just to get a bump in line….

    that really is the way that decision was made, the precedent of fixing that shoulder, is what they feared, and why they didn’t.

  52. 52
    dan says:

    What’s a blo ghost?

  53. 53
  54. 54
    bkny says:

    @El Cid:

    how about debtors’ prisons.

    Debtors’ prisons
    People find themselves arrested — and in jail — because they owe money

    Monday, June 14, 2010 | 2:05 a.m.

    A Minnesota woman was arrested this year after being stopped by a sheriff’s deputy, and she spent a night in jail. Her crime? She missed a court hearing over an unpaid debt.

    It’s not a crime to owe money, but a person can be jailed for missing a court hearing — and debt collection companies have no problem with that. Steven Rosso, a Minnesota attorney who does debt collection work, told the Minneapolis Star Tribune jail is “a harsh sanction. But sometimes, it’s the only sanction we have.”


  55. 55
    WereBear says:

    @bkny: Yeah, I was waiting for this. It’s the perfect plutocratic trend, “You can’t afford to live!”

  56. 56
    satby says:

    This is the part of MI I moved to (actually a little west, in a much smaller town) and maybe this

    And I should probably point out that Niles is in the “nice” part of Michigan (mostly Caucasian, rural-turned-bedroom-suburb, Dutch Reform stronghold,

    was once true, but I wouldn’t say so any more.
    I call where I live the Mississippi of the north, Deliverance crossed with Pleasantville (before color). They consider themselves die hard conservative Republicans and can’t see how their support of that party has led directly to this kind of incident.
    And it’s hardly an all white area, it’s become pretty mixed, and a lot of interracial couples, oddly enough, for such a conservative area.

    Lots of meth too. But this

    Everybody’s broke and desperate, is the problem.

    is absolutely true.
    And also ironically, a ton of the white folks here just pop out babies and go on welfare and then diss minorities for doing exactly that.

  57. 57
    mclaren says:

    No matter how bad you think America’s health care system is, the reality turns out to be worse:

    “Take Two Kickbacks and Call Me In the Morning”

    The hidden public-private cartel that sets health care prices

    Medical device maker kickback allegations keep coming

    @bkny: Here’s another article about the new debtors’ prisons.

    From the Minneapolis Star-Tribune: “In jail for being in debt”

    As a sheriff’s deputy dumped the contents of Joy Uhlmeyer’s purse into a sealed bag, she begged to know why she had just been arrested while driving home to Richfield after an Easter visit with her elderly mother.

    No one had an answer. Uhlmeyer spent a sleepless night in a frigid Anoka County holding cell, her hands tucked under her armpits for warmth. Then, handcuffed in a squad car, she was taken to downtown Minneapolis for booking. Finally, after 16 hours in limbo, jail officials fingerprinted Uhlmeyer and explained her offense — missing a court hearing over an unpaid debt. “They have no right to do this to me,” said the 57-year-old patient care advocate, her voice as soft as a whisper. “Not for a stupid credit card.”

    So we’ve brought back debtors’ prisons. And we’ve got legalized robber baron ‘trusts’ that violate the law as flagrantly as anything in Teddy Roosevelt’s day. What next?

    Here’s my prediction: child labor.

    That’s what comes back next. Watch as the giant corporations force people in debt to indenture their children into slave labor.

    In the 1830s, twelve year old girls were hitched to coal carts and forced to haul the carts out of coal mines. This was done because in the 1830s, when a horse died of exhaustion hauling that coal out of the mines, it was expensive to replace — but twelve year old girls were cheap. So they used little girls instead of horses to haul the coal carts until the little girls died of exhaustion.

    Today, it’ll be something similar. Watch for it. And it won’t be called “indentured servitude,” it’ll be called something nice and politicaly correct and consumer-friendly. But child labor is coming.

    America is moving backward fast. We moved back into the 1920s, when labor unions were effectively outlawed, then to the 1890s, when giant monopoly trusts ruled America and corrupt robber barons forced the powerless public to pay through the nose for basic services and commodities with no rein on their corruption or greed. Now, we’re headed back through the 1840s with debtors’ prison to the 1820s…and child labor.

    What comes next? The 1750s? Will we begin burning witches in the streets? The 1580s? Will charges of religious heresy become commonplace once again? Perhaps America will go back so far into prehistory that we lose the power of speech, and forget how to make fire…

  58. 58
    mai naem says:

    I am surprised this woman didn’t go across the border and go to a Canadian ER. That’s what I would have done. Made some crap up about falling and hitting my shoulder.

  59. 59
    LikeableInMyOwnWay says:

    A CT scan in America costs between $950 and $3200. The exact same CT scan in France with the exact same machine costs $212.

    Yeah, but the difference is, in France, a Cat Scan uses an actual cat.

  60. 60
    DBrown says:

    @mclaren: Boy, did you do your homwork! This should be a letter to the NYT. Thanks!

  61. 61
    Crusty Dem says:


    Yeah, I was coming in to dispute that Niles, MI was all that nice. My great aunt once owned and ran a trailer park in Niles, not so great (not Detroit, though), definitely a large step below my own economically depressed midwestern berg.. My relatives from there were some of the nicest virulent racists you’ll ever meet, when I discovered that the area (at one time) had some of the highest Klan membership rates in the US, it all made sense..

  62. 62
    El Cid says:


    When? When has Brooks ever said anything nice about Obama? And, please explain the Prime part. I agree, though, that he’s more dangerous because he’s a purported liberal, right? So even the liberal David Brooks, etc., etc., etc.

    Brooks was mostly negative about Obama, as he is with all Democrats, but he gathered Republitard ire by dissenting with the whole Obama = radical dangerous Kenyan soshullist. He said things like Obama was calm, rational, and not raging against any talented expert or insider like the Bush Jr / Palinites were.

    That passes for ‘nice’. That was enough for the standard FOXNOOZ / Limbaugh right to scream that Brooks endorsed Obama.

    I say “Bobo Prime” because he is the original Bobo, and now there’s a variety of sub-Bobo monikers used here, such as Ross Douthat as Chunky David Brooks, etc.

  63. 63
    Lurker says:


    Yeah, but the difference is, in France, a Cat Scan uses an actual cat.

    Heh. I know you’re kidding around about France, but an acquaintance of mine recently had to take advantage of her French citizenship to get French-quality health care.

    She was in pain (fibromalgyia), she had “good” insurance, and she tried American doctors for two years with few results. Prescription drugs dampened/stopped the pain, but the side effects left her unable to function properly. One treatment almost worked, where the doctors surgically implanted electrodes in her back and ran electric signals to stop the pain. This worked great until her health insurer refused to pay for the experimental treatment, and the hospital needed at least $10,000 to continue. When she could not come up with the money out-of-pocket, the doctors removed the electrodes and left her back where she started.

    So, after two years of American health care and no progress, she moved to France to seek treatment in the French health care system. The French doctors were appalled at the poor quality of health care that she received in America, and they think the American doctors made her condition worse. She’s now getting French-quality health care, she’s not asked to pay anything for it, and her condition has improved after a year of treatment in France. She’s not out of the woods yet, but I’m glad she has access to good health care.

  64. 64
    Lurker says:


    …the hospital needed at least $10,000 to continue.

    Damn, missed the “Edit” deadline…

    It’s been a while. I’m trying to remember if it was $10,000 or $50,000. I just remember that she could not come up with the amount the hospital needed to continue with the electrode treatment.

  65. 65
    goatchowder says:

    My aim would be better. I have no insurance. I have very little savings left. If I had an injury that’d cost $100K to fix, I’d make sure the bullet landed in my head. The system thinks I’m a worthless human being? Great, I’ll take out the trash, no problem.

    We don’t have universal medical coverage, but we sure do have universal Second Amendment rights! Maybe next thing the corporations will do is train us poor-ass rabble how to do it properly: if the barrel is in your mouth, you’re much less likely to miss.

  66. 66
    LD50 says:

    @Mike Kay:

    Perhaps it would be good if Roe v Wade is overturnned. The fundies would become largely complacent.

    True. Think of all those rednecks that would never bother to vote again.

  67. 67
    Alouise Finkel says:

    @El Cid: “Free democratic capitalism?” Are your kidding? Big companies and other financial interests none of whom pay much in taxes have enough to corrupt the politicians who devise policies that benefit their paymasters. What you call free democratic capitalism is what’s leftover on the edges. What you call free democratic capitalism is neither free nor democratic.

  68. 68
    ME says:

    I was able to get an MRI with no insurance for $350 in California.
    If you look, you can find deals.
    Billed costs are much HIGHER for insurance than cash patients too.
    Doctors will order more tests, more visits and suggest higher expense treatment plans for those insured.
    This doesn’t happen if you’re a cash patient.

    In fact, doctors can and will simply refuse cash patients because they can’t overbill an insurance company.
    I’ve been both insured and uninsured and was surprised at how low a visit to the doctor costs when paying cash.
    But again, these same doctors may simply tell you to get lost when you offer cash.
    Not only will they make more money by billing an insurance company, they stand more protected legally.
    Suing insurance companies is an every day occurrence for medical legal depts.
    Suing an individual isn’t though because rarely does the patient have any real money to obtain.
    So docs would much prefer an insured patient because they can bill more and more successfully sue if there’s any problems.

  69. 69
    replicnt6 says:

    @Mike Kay:

    Perhaps it would be good if Roe v Wade is overturned. The fundies would become largely complacent.

    I’m skeptical. I strongly suspect something new would come along for them to get their dander up about. Say contraception. Or miscegenation.

  70. 70

    […] Yes, we do live in a country where a woman shot herself in an attempt to get needed medical care. And didn’t get […]

  71. 71
    Dylan says:

    She should keep shooting herself until they do the job right?

    But seriously, I’m shocked that JC thinks 28k is a reasonable price for an insured person to pay for medical care.

    Thank God I’m not an American.

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