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Expand chart
Data: Peterson-Kaiser Health System Tracker; Chart: Axios Visuals

Low-income patients often face steeper out-of-pocket health care costs — and that means they're also more likely to be sued by hospitals when they can't pay their bills.

Driving the news: The New York Times yesterday reported on Carlsbad Medical Center's prolific use of lawsuits to collect its patients' medical debts, which often leads to wage garnishment or property liens.

  • The hospital is the only one in town and has filed nearly 3,000 lawsuits against patients since 2015, NYT found.
  • Its practices were first profiled in an upcoming book by Marty Makary, a doctor at Johns Hopkins, titled "The Price We Pay."
  • "The health insurance deductibles so often discussed in our health policy circles may seem inconsequential to wealthy people and to decision makers in the policy world, but they are crushing many Americans," Makary writes.

Not only are patients facing more out-of-pocket spending than ever before, but hospitals — including Carlsbad Medical Center — often greatly inflate their prices compared to Medicare rates.

  • Some of the hospitals suing patients — like Memphis' Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare — are nonprofits.
  • "Hospitals want to get all the perks of their nonprofit status…but really rake patients through the coals with their billing practices," Yale's Zack Cooper told me.

The bottom line: "There's a space for folks who are vulnerable to get caught in the cracks of our system ... [such as] higher cost sharing and out-of-pocket costs, skimpier health insurance plans, and more aggressive collection practices by hospitals and providers," Cooper said.

Go deeper: The only health care prices that matter to consumers

Go deeper

Updated 15 hours ago - Sports

The potential GOAT of chess faces intriguing challenger

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The World Chess Championship between Norway's Magnus Carlsen and Russia's Ian Nepomniachtchi began on Friday, 1,094 days after Carlsen won his fourth consecutive title.

Why it matters: During the long, COVID-fueled layoff, chess entered a new era, and with the championship finally here, the age-old game is ready for its close-up.

Department of Interior proposes raising cost of drilling on public lands

A horizontal drilling rig and a pump jack sit on federal land in Lea County, New Mexico. Photo: Callaghan O'Hare/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Oil and gas companies should pay more to drill on federal lands and waters, the Department of the Interior argued in a report released Friday, saying that the current rates were "outdated."

Driving the news: The Department of Interior report said that the federal government's oil and gas leasing and permitting program "fails to provide a fair return to taxpayers, even before factoring in the resulting climate-related costs that must be borne by taxpayers."

17 hours ago - Health

U.S. to restrict air travel from 8 countries over new COVID variant concerns

A COVID-19 vaccine is administered. Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The U.S. will impose new air travel restrictions in response to the Omicron variant, a new COVID strain first detected in South Africa, President Biden announced Friday.

The big picture: Air travel from South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique and Malawi will be restricted starting on Monday.