Tres Biggs, who was arrested for missing a medical bill payment, has a child with leukemia while his wife suffers from Lyme disease.
A CBSNews report has revealed the ill fate of the inhabitants of a county in rural Kansas, where people are being jailed for not being able to pay their medical bills. Considered a universal right in majority of the world, healthcare still manages to be one of the country's worst and the most polarizing issues. The arrest story comes to light as 2020 Presidential Primaries have begun and are running in full swing, at least on the democrat's side, where affordable and universal healthcare have become the key buzzwords for some of the leading candidates.
Meg Oliver, a correspondent for the network, who reported the story in partnership with ProPublica, talked to a couple who have suffered the wrath of a system that has squeezed their lives by adding additional financial burden to an already strained household.
JAILED FOR DEBT: Tres and Heather Biggs' son Lane was diagnosed with leukemia when he was 5 years old. Tres was working 2 jobs but they fell behind on their medical bills.— KUTV 2News (@KUTV2News) February 11, 2020
"You wouldn't think you'd go to jail over medical bills," Tres said.https://t.co/z0wONZbKYB
Oliver had a conversation with Tres and Heather Biggs, whose son Lane was diagnosed with leukemia when he was 5 years old, while Biggs herself suffers seizures due to Lyme disease. "We had so many — multiple health issues in our family at the same time, it put us in a bracket that made insurance unattainable," Heather Biggs told CBS News. "It would have made no sense. We would have had to have not eaten, not had a home."
Tres Biggs, who was working two jobs to make ends meet, failed to make a few medical bill payments and then disaster struck, he went to jail for failing to appear in court for unpaid bills. "You wouldn't think you'd go to jail over medical bills," Tres Biggs said, terming the entire ordeal 'scary'.
People are being thrown in jail for being unable to pay their medical bills.— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) February 10, 2020
To my mind, that is outrageous and un-American.
"Medical debt" should not exist. https://t.co/vbwBBjmzun
"I was scared to death," Biggs continued, "I'm a country kid — I had to strip down, get hosed and put a jumpsuit on." Upon his arrest, his bail was set at $500, but he didn't have enough to make bail and said he had "maybe $50 to $100" at the time. Some debtors who had been arrested owed as little as $28.
I’m from this county and have been in this court. They are rude, heartless and despicable people.— Heather Sharma (@Heather_Sharma_) February 10, 2020
If you can’t afford to take off work, have no childcare or too sick they jail you for failure to appear.
It’s gotten worse with hospital closings and bankruptcy changes.
Michael Hassenplug, an attorney who has built a successful law career representing medical providers and helping them recoup their money, said: "I'm just doing my job. They want the money collected, and I'm trying to do my job as best I can by following the law."
The law was introduced based on Hassenplug's recommendation to the local judge and it is used by attorneys who ask the court to direct people with unpaid medical bills to appear in court every quarter and state they are too poor to pay in what is called a "debtors exam." Failing to appear in two hearings would mean a contempt of court and the judge issues a warrant. This leads to a $500 bail.
"We're sending them to jail for contempt of court for failure to appear," Hassenplug says while also admitting that he "gets paid on what's collected".Disclaimer : This is based on sources and we have been unable to verify this information independently.