God supplied my need by having the hospital write off all my medical bills!

Could someone please explain to me why this is considered God's providential answer to prayer? I've heard many testimonies over the years how folks went to a doctor or hospital for treatment, racked up medical bills, and then asked that they be reduced or written off. When they are successful in not having to pay those bills, they 'praise the Lord' for supplying their need. 

I'm not simply talking about someone working out a payment plan or some other kind of settlement with a hospital- I'm talking about chalking up such as God's provision. This sounds like a contradiction to me.

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Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

Fellow employees where my husband works have seen posts on his FB pages as described above. They are incredulous that someone praises God's providence that the hospital wrote off their more than $30Gs of medical bills, while the 'likes' and "Amens" pile up under it.

I guess the basic question is- "Is it a violation of Scripture to take these write offs?" One Christian friend says "Hey, if that's what the hospital wants to do, why shouldn't I take the offer?"

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

Where my dh works, they occasionally write off stolen equipment or unpaid bills because of the cost in man hours to pursue deadbeats. Why on earth would a Christian brag about not being able to pay for their medical care? And then call that 'God providing their needs'? I mean, if God provided the need, wouldn't He provide the funds, or the ability to acquire the funds, to pay one's bills?

It's not like I don't understand what it is like to have medical bills (still paying for an ER visit I had in July) but I received excellent care, medical expertise, drugs (Hurray!), and the use of very expensive equipment. Why should we expect hospitals to eat the cost of our care, when we would never dream of filling our carts at the grocery store or Walmart or Walgreens and then asking the store to write it off?

Dan Miller's picture

Ok, here are some options for response to the hospital writing off her bills:

1. Praise God!  Woo-hoo!

2. Praise God for allowing this to happen to me. I know I do not deserve for this to have been done for me, but I am so grateful as I unfortunately have no way to pay these bills.

3. (Praise God that this has happened. I'm ashamed that I can't pay these myself. Therefore, I am not going to publicize my poverty by posting on facebook.)

4. THANK YOU to all you other people who pay your hospital bills so that I have a hospital to go to without paying!!!

5. Haha! All you losers paying for medical insurance! Don't you know that you can just be treated and not pay?

GregH's picture

It is more complicated than that. Hospitals over-bill by huge amounts and then have it cut down by insurance.  It is routine for them to bill maybe $2500 for a service that they get paid $500 for by the insurance company. When they bill non-insureds or high-deductible insureds, they often charge far more than the insurance companies would pay too. As a high-deductible insured, I always negotiate those bills and can get them reduced by half or more. There is huge markup in them. The hospitals expect all that to be negotiated. Nothing immoral about it getting them to write some of it off. If anything is immoral, it is the excessive billing.

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

But that's not what I'm talking about. We've had our medical bills reduced on occasion by 20, even 30%, as we have a high-deductible plan too, and often pay cash for doctor visits. So instead of the dr billing $150 for the visit, we pay $85, and it goes toward our deductible.  My ER visit was reduced from around $3G to $875, based on their contract with our insurance. 

I'm talking about people who don't pay bills for months and months and months, so the hospital looks at their income level, etc.. and writes off the entire amount. And then somehow this is God providing for their needs. Then everyone goes into a 'Praise Jesus' fit, and no one thinks "Hey, maybe this guy shouldn't be a deacon."

Larry's picture

Moderator

I'm talking about people who don't pay bills for months and months and months, so the hospital looks at their income level, etc.. and writes off the entire amount. And then somehow this is God providing for their needs. Then everyone goes into a 'Praise Jesus' fit, and no one thinks "Hey, maybe this guy shouldn't be a deacon."

Two questions:

  1. Who is providing for their needs in this case if not God?
  2. Are you saying that a qualification for deacon is ability to pay hospital and medical bills, or inability to have them forgiven by the hospital?
Chip Van Emmerik's picture

Larry wrote:

I'm talking about people who don't pay bills for months and months and months, so the hospital looks at their income level, etc.. and writes off the entire amount. And then somehow this is God providing for their needs. Then everyone goes into a 'Praise Jesus' fit, and no one thinks "Hey, maybe this guy shouldn't be a deacon."

Two questions:

  1. Who is providing for their needs in this case if not God?
  2. Are you saying that a qualification for deacon is ability to pay hospital and medical bills, or inability to have them forgiven by the hospital?

Larry,

I think it is more about being responsible toward the world and paying your bills.

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

Larry's picture

Moderator

I think it is more about being responsible toward the world and paying your bills.

Not sure how that helps, Chip. Perhaps you can elaborate?

 

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

Larry wrote:

I think it is more about being responsible toward the world and paying your bills.

Not sure how that helps, Chip. Perhaps you can elaborate?

 

1 Timothy 3:8-13

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

Larry's picture

Moderator

I guess I am obtuse or something, becuase I am not following you at all. To me the issue is whether or not there is a responsibility to pay a debt that has been forgiven, either totally or partially? It seems hard to argue that there is, but perhaps. And I think Susan has already admitted that, so I am not following her line of argument here.

Take Susan's example: She had a $2500 bill that she paid $875 for. They lowered is by $1625 (if my math is correct). That's great. But let's that Susan makes six months of $25 payments because that the company is willing to take that, and then the hospital forgives $2200. All of the sudden, someone is disqualified from being deacon.

What gives?

Susan might respond that the insurance company negotiated that $1625. Okay. But why is an insurance company allowed to negotiate but an individual is not?

Susan might respond that she has insurance. Okay. The whole point of insurance is to keep from paying bills. You have negotiated up front how much you will pay, no matter how much it costs. The insurance company does the same thing. So you are paying a premium in hopes to avoid bills. The insurance coming is taking your premium, with the same hope--to avoid bills.

So it seems to me that it is entirely biblical to negotiate payments and settlements for both the good of both parties in all kinds of situations. Why is that wrong? And why would it disqualify someone from being a deacon? I see nothing in 1 Tim 3:8-13 that addresses that.

Jim's picture

A man robs a bank. He uses the $$ to pay his bills.  Who is providing for his needs in this case if not God?

--------

I'm on record that it is OK to negotiate the best possible rate (response to GregH above)

---------

I'm in a high-deductible health plan (HDHP) (2012 was the first year). I had medical expenses of several hundred dollars short of  $ 15,000 and my own out of pocket was $ 5000 (the maximum out of pocket according to my plan)

I kept all the bills and filed them. I can attest that the billing is something like this (numbers are made up as I don't have a bill in front of me now)

  • Emergency Room Physician = $ 900
  • Amount covered by insurance = $ 459
  • Reduction per plan = $ 200
  • Patient responsibility = $ 241

When I hit my maximum out of pocket ... my responsibility dropped to the co-pay amount

I had to have a out-patient procedure in a December - January time frame. I was at the Dr's office on 12/9. They scheduled the procedure for January. I asked if they could move that up into December. After some scheduling shifts that took about a week, I had the procedure just before Christmas. Cost = (approx) $ 3000. My out of pocket was $ 0 (Met the max out of pocket)

---------

Later in December I had a full frontal lobotomy ... it was free! (this part is fiction).

Here's a post-surgery picture! My out of pocket was $ 0

Jim's picture

On Deacon's qualifications (would apply to Bishops)

  • I don't see that poverty is a disqualifier (else who would be a pastor Smile
  • But an unwillingness to own up to one's financial obligations would be
  • "a good report of them which are without" / "blameless" / "not greedy of filthy lucre" / "not covetous"

 

Larry's picture

Moderator

A man robs a bank. He uses the $$ to pay his bills.  Who is providing for his needs in this case if not God?

I don't think this is relevant. It is not even remotely related to the topic.

I have a HDHP. I think they should be mandated by law, if for no other reason than that it gives you a real stake in your healthcare. Right now, people tend to run to the doctor for little things because it's only $20 or $35. When it's $100, you think differently about it.

The reason premiums are lower on HDHPs is becuase you, the insured, are assuming more risk, and the insurance company is less likely to pay anything, so they take less from you. When I switched my premiums went down by half. Twice in five years I have maxed out due to my back. The other three years, my combined expenses didn't meet the deductible for ones year (i.e, less than $1500).

But on a few occasions, I have called the doctor and said, "I'm paying out of pocket. What will this cost?" I have even done it after the visit. And I think it's perfectly legitimate to do.

 

Jim's picture

  • "I don't think this is relevant. It is not even remotely related to the topic." - I'll grant that!
  • I learned a lesson last year about HDHP (my first year in the plan).

    • After a cold I had a persistent cough 3-4 weeks later
    • Wife said ... go to the Dr! You're keeping me awake at night
    • Went to the Dr ... his response: "these things take time ... give it another week or two"
    • Yup ... another week ... cough gone!
    • Bill arrived ... it was about $ 200!
Larry's picture

Moderator

Well, we have gone back and forth quickly here and I have bills to avoid paying so I better move on for now, but let me address this:

But an unwillingness to own up to one's financial obligations would be

I agree, but is this an unwillingness? If someone forgives a debt, are we still required to pay it? If someone says, "I'll settle your bill for $875 (or $300 or $0)", are we bound to refuse such an offer?

Chip Van Emmerik's picture

Larry wrote:

Well, we have gone back and forth quickly here and I have bills to avoid paying so I better move on for now, but let me address this:

But an unwillingness to own up to one's financial obligations would be

I agree, but is this an unwillingness? If someone forgives a debt, are we still required to pay it? If someone says, "I'll settle your bill for $875 (or $300 or $0)", are we bound to refuse such an offer?

Larry,

Maybe I misunderstood, but that is exactly the part of the discussion I was pointing to for the deacon. Have a bill reduced because he is so far overdue that they have given up hope of ever collecting what is owed ought to almost always be grounds for disqualification. 

Why is it that my voice always seems to be loudest when I am saying the dumbest things?

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

The point of insurance to keep from paying bills? That's news to me. I've paid car insurance for umpteen years and never used it. Exactly what bill am I avoiding payment on? We pay medical insurance and use it about every 4-5 years. What medical bills am I avoiding paying? 

Making arrangements to pay a bill, and neglecting to pay a bill, are two different things. As has been pointed out, doctors and hospitals tend to overcharge for various reasons, but mostly because of the cost/hours involved in processing insurance and billing. With a HDHP, like ours, there is little paperwork, and we pay for many services at the point of contact, thereby reducing their costs AND ours. This is not not paying the bill, but paying for the actual cost of our care, sans the accounting dept. 

Telling a hospital that you can't afford to pay your bill and asking them to write it off is not negotiating payment, it's asking for a handout- one that other people will pay for with inflated medical costs and increased taxes.

This is happening to more and more businesses as time goes on, with folks refusing to pay, hoping that the cost of pursuing them will discourage the company from chasing them down. Small businesses, like where my husband works, get hit hard, as they have no large accounting departments or collectors. My dh does all their collections, in addition to regular customer service and billing duties. 

I don't know why it would be stealing to not pay a bill with another business, but SOP when it comes to medical care. The hospital isn't saying "Gee whiz, we feel so bad that your family is going through a hard time, so to be charitable, we're going to write off your bill." No- they are saying "You do not have the ability to pay your bill, and pursuing you costs more than your actual medical costs. Have a nice life."

What's more, knowing that these people often spend money in other, frivolous ways (unless you consider weekly clothes shopping, manicures, tanning, highlights, and take-out pizza to be necessities) somewhat undermines the "We are just poooooooor, wayfaaaring pilgrims....." vibe they are going for.

 

 

 

Larry's picture

Moderator

Have a bill reduced because he is so far overdue that they have given up hope of ever collecting what is owed ought to almost always be grounds for disqualification.

Based on what? If someone is unable to pay a medical bill, it doesn't mean they are lazy or slackers or irresponsible. It may mean that they had a medical emergency outside of their control.

IMO, this is not the same as consumer credit cards, mortgage debt, car loans, and the like. Medical bills are a different sort of animal.

Now, if they cant pay their medical bills because they won't cut off the cable TV, sell a car or two, give up their two week vacation at the beach or something, that's another issue.

Larry's picture

Moderator

The point of insurance to keep from paying bills? That's news to me. I've paid car insurance for umpteen years and never used it. Exactly what bill am I avoiding payment on? We pay medical insurance and use it about every 4-5 years. What medical bills am I avoiding paying? 

The catastrophic bills that come from disasters. Or the large bills that come from car wrecks.

Insurance works by assessing risk. A self-insured person is willing to take the risk that either the bill won’t come or they can pay the bill themselves. We buy insurance because we don’t want the risk of facing bills. Five years ago I had back surgery. I avoided a $40,000+ bill because I had insurance. With my car about 15 years ago, I avoided a $10,000 bill when someone ran a red light in front of me. The insurance companies, on the other hand, was not able to avoid the bill. They paid them.

Telling a hospital that you can't afford to pay your bill and asking them to write it off is not negotiating payment, it's asking for a handout- one that other people will pay for with inflated medical costs and increased taxes.

No, it’s negotiating (assuming you are not lying). It’s the opening end of negotiation. You make an offer; they make a counter offer. It might be in bad taste. I would not encourage someone to approach it that way. But negotiation is SOP in all of life, except in retail stores in America usually. Most things in the world are negotiated. And virtually no one pays more than they have to. That’s the way it works.

And you pay whatever the hospital or Dr tells you to pay. They don’t have to negotiate. They may choose not to. But asking them to is not wrong or unethical.

 

I don't know why it would be stealing to not pay a bill with another business, but SOP when it comes to medical care.

I don’t either. Who said it was? To flat out not pay is stealing. To negotiate a settlement is not stealing.

The hospital isn't saying "Gee whiz, we feel so bad that your family is going through a hard time, so to be charitable, we're going to write off your bill." No- they are saying "You do not have the ability to pay your bill, and pursuing you costs more than your actual medical costs. Have a nice life."

Actually, they might be saying both, depending on the hospital. But everyone makes a call about what things are worth. And some things aren’t worth pursuing, particularly if there’s no likelihood that you will win.

Again, as I said above, consumer debt is a different matter. I am not comfortable with people filing for bankruptcy for consumer debt. One reason is because it is a forced, court-ordered settlement. The creditor has no choice to negotiate.

What's more, knowing that these people often spend money in other, frivolous ways (unless you consider weekly clothes shopping, manicures, tanning, highlights, and take-out pizza to be necessities) somewhat undermines the "We are just poooooooor, wayfaaaring pilgrims....." vibe they are going for.

As I said, that is a different story. That was not a part of the issue here (until I brought it up in my last post and you bring it up here). If they are doing this, they shouldn’t.

But again, any individual or business is free to negotiate their finances any way they want. That’s not a bad thing. And if a man has medical bills is not able to pay, that does not necessarily disqualify him from being a deacon.

 But again, we come back to the original question: Would God use the forgiveness of a debt as a means of provision for someone?

 

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

I pay for car insurance because it is illegal to not have it. And not having medical insurance limits which doctors will accept you as a patient. For the consumer, insurance is not necessarily about bill avoidance. 

I still think that paying for the actual cost of service, and not paying at all, are two different things. But that's just crazy ol' me.

I don't think the example is a different story. I think it's SOP, and those who can't pay due to circumstances beyond their control are a tiny minority. Churches are full of people who don't know the first thing about budgeting and being frugal or financial planning,  or the difference between a necessity and a luxury. But the problem is very deep- it goes all the way from parents not preparing their children to support themselves, to churches who don't teach responsible financial planning as important to one's Christian character and conduct, and don't care where people get their money, as long as they tithe.

Giving God the glory for not paying one's medical bills is really just a symptom of a deeper problem, in addition to being a personal pet peeve. 

Larry's picture

Moderator

I still think that paying for the actual cost of service, and not paying at all, are two different things. 

Then we agree.

But wasn't the topic here whether or not God uses the acts of others to provide for people? I think he does. You appear not to. So we disagree on that.

People may have bad financial habits. They may not. There are all kinds of things that may happen in life, and any of them are simply things that we do not have control over. By and large, I think people in debt are there by their own choices, and that is bad. But some are not, and I have no idea about people's individual circumstances, so I will withhold judgment on that.

My only point is that accepting forgiveness is not unethical or wrong (all other things being equal), God does sometimes use the acts of others to provide for his people, and having large medical bills forgiven doesn't necessarily disqualify a man from being a deacon.

BTW, I've never heard of a doctor who won't take you because you don't have insurance. I imagine every doctor will take cash on the barrelhead if you have enough of it, and pay it up front. Insurance is because most people don't have enough to self-insure against catastrophic things. It doesn't take long to burn through a savings account with medical bills.

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

I've made enough phone calls when we were uninsured to know that there are plenty of docs who won't accept patients who are uninsured. Places like clinics and Urgent Care will take you regardless.

I never said that God doesn't use the acts of others to provide. That is a very broad statement. But I'd think long and hard before declaring nonpayment of a bill as God's provision. The hospital may 'forgive' the bill, but they don't feel 'forgiving' about it, and they pass on the expense to paying customers. 

Having a large medical is not a disqualification in and of itself, but I think the NT pattern would be that the church would try to help defer some of the bill, instead of the person asking for a total write-off. Financial responsibility should be part of a church leader's qualifications, and far too seldom is this exercised.

I think too many people view the medical profession as having deep pockets, and they feel justified in asking for a write off for a medical bill, but they'd never default on their car or utilities, because 1) bye-bye car and 2) no microwave popcorn or cable tv.

 

rogercarlson's picture

Susan,

 

I think you are forgetting something.  My local hospital actually has a fund set aside for this very thing.  They have funds for those who can demonstrate their actual need.  So it is not them writing it off grudgingly.  No they do so willingly, to those who have demonstrated need.  Now, I am sure it is abused at times, but generally it is not.  It is done based on negotiation and those who participate still pay something.  They are not the only hospital that does this.  In this case, the people are not deadbeats, nor is the hospital writing off so they don't sue.  No, both are coming to a mutual agreement.  I do agree with you in general, but I think you are overreaching a little bit.

Roger Carlson, Pastor
Berean Baptist Church

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

Not trying to cover every possibility here. As a general rule, I think seeking medical care with the intent of not paying for it is wrong-headed for Christians. We don't treat any other business this way, and when we do (default on a loan, file bankruptcy) it is not looked upon favorably. And none of these other options are viewed as God providing one's need.

If a church or charitable organization is set up to help defray medical costs for low-income folks, then hurray- the bill is getting paid by people who have volunteered to do so. But in general, not paying one's medical bills results in higher costs for others, who have NOT with knowledge aforehand agreed to help defray the healthcare costs of others.

Furthermore, even though our healthcare system is fraught with problems, I think it is disrespectful to receive the care of nurses and doctors, use their technology, swallow those pills- and then ask to not have to pay anything for it. 

I wonder what our testimony would be if, instead of hoping that we don't have to pay for goods and services provided by medical professionals, we, out of our deep poverty, ask for God to supply the means to pay, and work with the accting dept to arrange to pay something. Can you imagine the impact of someone saying -"No, I don't want you to write this off- I received excellent care and I want to pay for it!"

Larry's picture

Moderator

Susan, my questions and points are fairly narrowly targeted. I think you are introducing some other things into the equation that I don't disagree with. So let me tie up my thoughts here with this:

I've made enough phone calls when we were uninsured to know that there are plenty of docs who won't accept patients who are uninsured.

I have called before and said I wasn't using insurance and never had a problem. Who knows ... It's hard to imagine a doctor saying, "I know you have $1000 in your pocket ready to give me for an office visit today but I won't see you because you don't have insurance." They have never done it to me.

But I'd think long and hard before declaring nonpayment of a bill as God's provision.

So would I. But that want the question I raised.

I think God's name gets used a lot in vain all over and not just in nonpayment of a bill. I certainly wouldn't ask for a total write-off and I would not encourage anyone else to. But again, that wasn't what I was addressing. Sometimes God uses the choices of others to provide for people.

Financial responsibility should be part of a church leader's qualifications, and far too seldom is this exercised.

I agree on this. I am not sure how often it is considered, and I am not sure how you would know either. I don't have enough experience in churches outside of my own to know. I think you said you have been in less than a dozen, which hardly seems enough to make a call on. But in principle, of course it should be considered.

But two things: (1) medical bills are often outside of someone's control; (2) this was not the issue I raised. Chip intimated that having debt forgiven was a de facto disqualification from being a deacon. I unpersuaded by anything offered here that is a biblical idea.

I think too many people view the medical profession as having deep pockets, and they feel justified in asking for a write off for a medical bill, but they'd never default on their car or utilities, because 1) bye-bye car and 2) no microwave popcorn or cable tv.

I am not sure this is true. Several years ago my neighbor ran generators in the garage all winter because they had defaulted on their utility bills. And people lose cars for more frequently than they have medical bills written off.

So I agree that "seeking medical care with the intent of not paying for it is wrong-headed for Christians." But I would be cautious in passing judgment on someone who has debt forgiven.

 

Susan R's picture

EditorModerator

I think I qualified my opinion in post #7, and I agree that one could not pass judgment on every situation.