"Anyone can easily fall through the cracks" - That's what Newberry resident Rebecca Brocious said when discussing supplemental and emergency insurance for the poor and needy, and how it relates to the high cost of medical bills.
Brocious, who attended a recent conference on the health care payment issue with state legislators at Lycoming College, said among the debate was whether to extend Medicaid dollars that Gov. Tom Corbett said in his budget address would burden taxpayers.
Brocious said, in reality, nobody is safe with the high cost of medical procedures today.
"Unless you're a millionaire, there is a possibility that you also will need Medicaid in the future," she said.
Medicaid, which is jointly funded, federal-state health insurance for low-income and needy people, might be needed for those in the so-called middle class who fall through the cracks, she said.
"Medicaid is wrongly thought of as for the poor and takers in society," she said. "It's actually a safety net for everyone once insurance benefits for the older, who qualify for Medicare, can no longer support the cost of the treatments or extended illness."
Most middle-class earners bring home too much to receive public assistance, but hospital bills can surmount into unpayable debt without the safety net, Brocious said.
"It only takes a diagnosis or extended illness to fall into that category once insurance coverage expires," she said.
Brocious said she is aware of a married couple stuck with more than $450,000 in a nursing home bill. The woman's husband was a college professor who has been afflicted with dementia.
"They were not eligible for Medicaid because of his earnings," she said.
"Those on public welfare already have coverage," Brocious said. "Anyone, regardless of their career choices or job and professional status, can easily be swamped in extremely high hospital bills."
Brocious also noted the statement at the conference by a hospital administrator who claimed emergency rooms continue to be hit financially while providing care for uninsured patients.
"Think about it, when somebody goes to the hospital and doesn't pay a bill, we, as consumers, through higher medical costs, pay it," she said. "All of these costs of medical care trickle down to us. Unpaid medical bills are costs that don't go away."