In Kansas, One County Is Jailing People Who Can’t Afford Their Medical Bills

Darren.Woon

People who cannot afford to pay their medical bills are being jailed in rural Coffeyville, Kansas.

In rural Coffeyville, Kansas, where the poverty rate is twice the national average, people are being jailed because they cannot afford their medical bills, according to CBS News.

Tres and Heather Biggs’ son Lane was diagnosed with leukemia when he was just 5 years old. Heather suffered seizures from Lyme disease at the same time.

“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 said. “It would have made no sense. We would have had to have not eaten, not had a home.”

Tres Biggs was working two jobs when they fell behind on their medical bills. He was subsequently jailed for failing to appear in court.

“I was scared to death,” Tres Biggs said. “I’m a country kid -- I had to strip down, get hosed, and put a jumpsuit on.”

Attorneys like Michael Hassenplug have built successful law practices representing medical providers to collect debt owed by people like the Biggs.

“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,” Hassenplug said.

Yet, Hassenplug recommended the law, which directs people with unpaid medical bills to appear in court every three months and state they are too poor to pay, to be put in place by a local judge. If two hearings are missed, the judge issues an arrest warrant for contempt of court with bail set at $500.

“This raises serious constitutional concerns,” said Nusrat Choudhury, the deputy director of the ACLU. “What’s happening here is a jailhouse shake-down for cash that is the criminalization of private debt.”

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Comments (4)
No. 1-4
SylviaS
SylviaS

Are they taking them out of the doctor offices and hospitals too? Give me a break on this one please. 👩‍🦳

Babcockk2
Babcockk2

I grew up in a family that went bankrupt twice because of medical bills. I burnt the left side of my body and spent 8 months in the hospital. My brother lost his life in a motorcycle accident, his spent 5
Months in ICU before he lost his battle for life, my other brother injusted lye and spent 3 months in the hospital. Something needs to be done with the way non profit hospitals are able to take advantage of paying no tax. They should be required to help the poor. My Mom and Dad tried their best but they never where able to dig there self out of a hole. Jail is ridiculous for medical Debt.

NoRichSubsidies
NoRichSubsidies

Irrelevant

Chamkilistar
Chamkilistar

Well, show up for your court date.. that would be a great start to avoid jail time. Even if it isn’t ideal to take time off work or if you/a fam member is ill. Skipping out will always get you into more trouble.


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