by Kerry Dougherty
First, after Larry Puckett nearly stabbed Justin Hawkes to death in the fall of 2019, Mr. Hawkes incurred about $120,000 in medical bills.
Because the injured man was indigent, Medicaid stepped in and negotiated the price down to $22,000.
If this former English major’s math is correct that’s just under 20% of the original bill.
Does this suggest there’s some padding in medical bills? You bet it does. In fact, receiving any medical procedure is a lot like buying an airline ticket. Everyone on the flight pays a different amount for the privilege of squeezing into a tiny seat and arriving at the exact time. Some folks spent a fortune for their tickets. Others got a cut-rate price.
Same goes for medical bills, although many of those are accompanied by an emergency that leaves no time to shop around for a better price.
Face it, medical care is a racket. Dare to ask why that Tylenol they gave you in the hospital cost 15 bucks and you’ll get a verbal tsunami of indignation and gibberish. Just pay it, they say. You have insurance.
In this case, according to the Virginia Mercury, the judge ordered Larry Puckett to repay Medicaid for the injuries he inflicted on Mr. Hawkes once he completed his prison sentence:
Puckett was convicted by Patrick Circuit Court of malicious wounding. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison, with eight years suspended, and ordered to complete five years of probation and pay … the cost of the medical services as restitution. The restitution was to be paid in $50 increments each month following his release from prison.
I like it!
Although chances are anyone who runs around stabbing people then serves 12 years in prison (unless the Democrats get control of the Governor’s Mansion again and appoint another Parole Board that waves its magic wand of freedom over the commonwealth’s worst felons) is never going to hold a job long enough to make restitution. Still, the court made a statement.
(Beyond that, repaying the bill at $50 a month would take 440 months or 36 years to make Medicaid whole. Never going to happen.)
Yet Virginia’s Court of Appeals, in an act that defies common sense, ruled that Puckett wasn’t liable for the cost of his victim’s medical care because “it was not established that these medical expenses were ‘incurred by the victim’ of Puckett’s malicious wounding.”
The Supreme Court of Virginia disagreed and just reinstated the restitution.
We, the taxpayers will never see a dime, of course, but reinforcing the principle that society’s hairballs should be squeezed until they pay for their crimes is a good one.
Kudos to the Supreme Court for taking a stand.