succumbing to peer pressure

Saturday, January 26, 2008


A belated post on this new-fangled medical credit score idea. Thanks to Sid for the assignment heads up. Somewhat remarkably, this thing has somehow escaped most major news outlets. A google search turns up mostly just other blog posts. South Carolina's The State has a news story up, from which we learn that the medFICO will be a type of credit score used by the health industry to predict your ability to pay medical bills. The score will be based on your medical bill payment history, and allegedly won't be checked until after you've been discharged from the hospital (to ensure that it has no influence on the care you receive). Uh-huh. Yeah, I'll sleep securely at night with those assurances.

The chairman and CEO of Healthcare Analytics, the company developing the score, says, "We just help figure out what sort of relief a hospital should grant the patient." Something more specific than a general credit score, which your hospital can obtain without your permission, is needed because, as the article so helpfully points out, "Health care debt is largely involuntary."

Supporters of the idea claim it will be used to identify bills that are, essentially, lost causes, and conserve resources that would otherwise be spent trying to collect that bill. Additionally, the score could be used to better help hospitals plan budgets, with some idea of which bills are likely to be paid and which are not.

Which sort of sounds reasonable, except when you start digging around in the reliability of existing credit score data - "...the Consumer Federation of America says it found that 29 percent were 50 points lower than they should have been."

So with the medFICO you've got hospitals, insurance companies, and third parties collecting data that a) is likely to violate privacy laws by including too-detailed medical information, b) is rife for identity theft, c) could trivially be abused to reduce care provided to those unable to pay and d) is moderately likely to be just plain inaccurate. Wow, seems like a swell idea to me!

(the blog post linked earlier has a nice breakdown of the economic side of things, and some pretty cogent arguments as to why the company's claims about the timing and implementation of the score are likely bogus)


Blogger Sudiptya said...

Aww, I thought you liked it when I tossed you stuff that gets you all agitated! I'd blog about it myself, but I'm kinda shying away from the social justice stuff till my batteries are recharged. Besides, you're my go-to girl for public health issues! ~Sid

6:23 AM  
Blogger Sudiptya said...

For your next assignment: medical "rewards" credit cards.

9:34 PM  

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