01/29/2009 01:34 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Landmark Settlement for Uninsured

A note from Campaign Manager, Julie Sweet:

If you didn't know it already, Tom Geoghegan isn't your ordinary candidate in the IL-5 special election. He doesn't just check the progressive boxes on issue questionnaires and repeat the catchiest rhetoric. Tom has been actually fighting for these interests for decades. He's been a leader, tirelessly working for workers' rights, unions, economic security, and health care. And yesterday we received another reminder of just how important his work is:


(CHICAGO) Fifth district congressional candidate Tom Geoghegan today joined community members and health professionals in applauding Advocate Health Care Networks agreement to provide free and discounted health care to all uninsured patients. The settlement will end a court case stemming from a lawsuit filed against the hospital alleging that the hospital failed to provide appropriate charity care and reduced price care to uninsured and under-insured patients.

We shouldn't have to sue hospitals in order to ensure children and families can get the care they need, said Geoghegan, who served as lead counsel in the lawsuit. We need comprehensive health care reform so doctors can focus on treating the sick instead of worrying about the bottom line.

In this groundbreaking settlement, Advocate agreed to provide free or discounted health care to all uninsured or underinsured patients. Advocate had been charging these patients a higher rate that they were charging the insurance companies for the exact same procedures. Geoghegan told the Chicago Sun-Times that, for example, a birth that would have cost $1,800 for a Blue Cross patient would have cost $5,000 for an uninsured patient.

From now on, though, all uninsured or underinsured patients will pay either discounted rates, or nothing at all. And Advocate has also agreed to refund the patients it has overcharged, to the tune of some 3.5 million dollars.

This is a very big deal. Nearly 46 million Americans don't have health insurance, and, as health policy expert Harold Pollack has noted, a recent study showed that 72 million Americans "had accumulated medical debts or had problems paying medical bills. An estimated 28 million had been contacted by collection agencies over unpaid medical bills. Medical debt in America is a serious problem. More Americans file for bankruptcy because of illness or unpaid medical bills than for any other reason. And, shockingly, about 75% of those who declare bankruptcy for medical-related reasons have health insurance.

Moreover, in the midst of severe recession in which so many are losing their jobs and their health insurance, there is little doubt that the problem of medical debt will get much, much worse.

Through his work as a public attorney and advocate, Tom Geoghegan has shown both that he understands the enormity of America's health care crisis, and that he is committed to finding solutions for it. Time and again, he's demonstrated his commitment to working people in this country. It is this passion that he wants to bring to Congress.

Yep, Tom isn't your average candidate. And it isn't always easy following the different path to politics. We don't have the same big-money connections and the political establishment. But we have passion, a record of fighting for working families, and thousands of dedicated supporters committed to real economic change. And it is communities just like this that are going to make this campaign a success. Thank you.