Throwing people in jail because of their inability to pay debts was one of the horrors of England that Charles Dickens inveighed against, he himself suffering from a deep sense of shame because his father met such a fate. Since 1830, such a practice is no longer legal in the US but the US has brought back what are effectively debtor’s prisons, because people have found ways to jail you for ostensibly other reasons but which in reality are based on your inability to pay debts. “Under the law, debtors aren’t arrested for nonpayment, but rather for failing to respond to court hearings, pay legal fines, or otherwise showing “contempt of court” in connection with a creditor lawsuit.”
This article says that debt collectors are colluding with hospitals and are even embedded in hospitals and emergency rooms.
To patients, the debt collectors may look indistinguishable from hospital employees, may demand they pay outstanding bills and may discourage them from seeking emergency care at all, even using scripts like those in collection boiler rooms, according to the documents and employees interviewed by The New York Times.
In some cases, the company’s workers had access to health information while persuading patients to pay overdue bills, possibly in violation of federal privacy laws, the documents indicate.
Stephen Colbert did a segment on this.
(This clip appeared on May 2, 2012. To get suggestions on how to view clips of The Daily Show and The Colbert Report outside the US, please see this earlier post.)
Dickens also fought against the practice of child labor but with Newt Gingrich thinking that it would be just dandy to hire children to work as janitors, we would seem to be returning to the days of Victorian England.