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The American Shame - Boston Bomb Victims Must Pay Their Own Medical Bills

By April 18, 2013

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My heart simply breaks for the victims and families of the Boston Marathon bomber, as it did for those who were hurt and killed in the World Trade Center, Oklahoma City, Aurora, Tucson and of course, Sandy Hook - all the tragic horrors and terrorism invoked upon innocent victims in America....

And then I remember the second round of terrorism and horror - that is - that each of those individuals will not only spend a lifetime dealing with injuries and post traumatic stress, but will also spend a lifetime (in many cases) paying their medical bills.

Think about it...  you're running a marathon, or you attend a public appearance in a shopping mall, or you go to school - and you are bombed, shot - suffer lifelong injuries... You lose a limb, or you suffer a brain injury or worse... and then, the ultimate insult, now you are responsible for paying for it, too!

Granted, "victim relief funds" are set up, and we can donate to those causes - but is that the way we should be paying for healthcare?  And no, I'm not suggesting that the doctors and hospitals that provide medical care should work for free - not at all....

What I am saying is that I find it shameful that innocent victims of political and random acts of terror should be responsible for their medical bills.  In these cases, I believe the government should be stepping up, making sure these victims never even see those bills.

We have government funds to assist recovery from all kinds of horrible events - hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes - when Mother Nature rears her ugly head, the government steps in and and helps out in many ways.

So why not do the same for terrorist inflicted medical needs?  Why don't we have a fund to help citizens recover from such horrible events as bombs or shootings?

Instead we let individuals suffer the consequences on their own - and force many to go bankrupt or lose their entire life savings - which means we taxpayers are footing the bill anyway.

Part of my shame on this subject comes from my good relationship with many people in other countries where such a question would never even arise.  I'm truly embarrassed that we, in the United States of America, don't take care of our own innocent victim citizens any better than we do.

OK - off my soapbox now.  Open to your opinions....  share in the space below, please.

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Agree? Disagree?
Share your experience or join the conversation!


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Photo © Jim Rogash / Getty Images

April 18, 2013 at 12:39 pm
(1) Geoff Brandt says:

My heart goes out to the innocent victims in the marathon bombing.

However, I’m not sure where the author’s “shame” comes from. It was a private event. Individuals carry either private or gov’t health insurance policies which will cover all or part of the costs of the injuries. This is what insurance is for.

And, with the passage of the ACA, there are no more lifetime ceilings nor can an insurance company deny coverage for pre-existing conditions (such as an injury from a bomb blast).

If your net income is less than a few hundred percent of the poverty level, the gov’t even picks up the tab for your health policy.

Lastly, our country allows an individual to petition/sue the organizer of said event to cover costs if they feel that firm was negligent with regards to safety. If valid, that firm pays those costs from an insurance policy specifically for such an eventuality as required by law prior to being given permission to stage the event in the first place.

So with all of this in place, please explain to me why it’s shameful that the government doesn’t just write a blank check and pay for everything?

April 18, 2013 at 12:52 pm
(2) Trisha Torrey says:


Clearly you have never had a health challenge that required dealing with lifelong injuries while juggling medical bills on top of that.

Further – this is 2013. An educated guess is that many of the people injured carry no health insurance – including the fact that this took place in Massachusetts where health insurance is mandatory. No doubt a portion of those injured were from out of state.

As I can attest from my own experience, even when one carries insurance, just managing the payment part is a nightmare! The bookkeeping and management is exhausting even when one isn’t sick or injured.

Instead what will happen is that many of those injured will have to go bankrupt – in which case we taxpayers will be left holding the bill anyway.

So why not some sort of government plan to pay for injuries received from terrorism – just like they help pay for hurricanes or earthquakes or other devastation?

You bet I’m ashamed of a system that would place such burdens on its citizens when they are harmed through no fault of their own – often for political purposes.

When you have dealt with devastating health challenges imposed on you for political purposes through no fault of your own – then come back and tell us the system “works.”


April 18, 2013 at 2:25 pm
(3) alan says:

I feel so bad for the victims, the loss of life, the loss of limbs, the trama of trying to make sense of it all. However, I agree with Geoff, I don’t see where these injuries are anymore or less traumatic than other tradgedies. I man or woman is going to the store, a drunk driver runs a red light. The driver is killed the passenger losses a limb or suffers a traumatic head injury. They are dealing with the same injuries just differnt cause. The families of those killed in 911 got large government pay outs, a police officers family killed in a drug store robbery shoot out gets a fraction and payments to the families of soldiers killed defending the country are pitiful. I am sorry but I don’t see that the government’s responsibilty to these tradgedies is any more than many others. First reports are the blast in Texas was an accident, many killed and injured. For those who don’t have insurance or the ability to get coverage normally as Geoff indicated we as a compassionate society will see they get healthcare, but I don’t see where it would be more than if someone were in a car accident.

April 18, 2013 at 2:37 pm
(4) Trisha Torrey says:

In cases of accidents, many (most?) states require no fault insurance – so there is coverage for that.

Soldiers are a different story. They sign on for duty knowing there is a risk. And if they stay long enough, then they get coverage for life.

The truth is – I agree with you both. All those horrible tragedies have the same outcome for the person who suffers them….

Which is why, if we had true universal coverage, then there would be no questions. Or – if we had funds set up for people who are injured through no fault of their own (mother nature OR lunatics) – that would be far more equitable.

I promise you, the people hurt in car accidents or train bombings in London, England don’t deal with these questions.

By the way – Alan – I know one of your biggest gripes is about employer based insurance. If you are the employer of one of these victims, you pay the price, too – in increased premiums next year.


April 18, 2013 at 2:42 pm
(5) Rachel says:

When the government pays for something it wants the entity that is billing them to be accountable. It wants details about what the bill is for. This is particularly true in health care, where the pressure is deservedly really high to lower costs and increase quality. However, I don’t want the goverment informed about my personal medical conditions. My health is my business, not Uncle Sam’s, and quite often I can take care of it faster and cheaper than Uncle Sam can.

April 18, 2013 at 3:06 pm
(6) Steve says:

Thanks for opening the can of worms. While so called universal care covers a broader range of incidents the cost becomes burdensome to all. I’m not prepared to pay more taxes to cover every bump and bruise that everyone endures. Having to pay for your healthcare is a prevention motivator. When somebody else pays for everything that goes wrong in your life, why bother to be responsible for yourself. The principle of universal payment for everything doesn’t work. It is the most insidious form of genocide,. Creating a dependence/addiction on the “dole”.

Under the current system your proposal kick starts the slippery slope. If we cover health costs from terrorist acts then what about car accidents, cancer, heart disease etc etc etc. It’s never ending. Universal care seems like a solution to cover everything. Before we jump off that cliff we should see who suffers under existing socialized medicine systems. Reduced care for the elderly? No care in some cases except pallative care for those over a certain age etc. There is no free lunch. Universal care costs somebody. The government is not the answer not is the taxpayer.. They are quite incompetent at operations, especially in healthcare, e.g. the VA. They don’t invest well, e.g. Solara, GM. So why should we squander more tax money with ineffective investors.

The notion that the government should pay for every social/personal/business disaster doesn’t work for me. I can’t find an example of where its worked anywhere.

April 18, 2013 at 3:21 pm
(7) Trisha Torrey says:

Steve – so what you are saying is “tough luck” – right? As in, “If you happen to be the unlucky person who was in the way of that bomb and that terrorist then I guess it just sucks to be you.”

Wow. Black and white. All or nothing.

By the way – I am not recommending socialized medicine – not at all. There is a GIANT difference between universal coverage and socialized medicine.

Read more about the difference (written in 2008, by the way):


April 19, 2013 at 3:47 am
(8) Reuben says:

It saddens me to see people who already pay one of the lowest tax rates in the world unable to see past their own short-term interests. The sad fact is no one has a duty of care to anyone any more in the United States. There is no compassion and no solidarity. I am not a religious man and won’t be praying for the U.S and their insular path to self-destruction.

April 19, 2013 at 9:46 am
(9) Steve says:

To a certain extent I am saying “tough luck” happens to everybody at one time or another. The real point is that its not up to the government to jump in every time tough luck happens to somebody. It undermines self determination and a culture of responsibility for self and community. When we come to believe that the government will fix all our woes we become the slaves that B. Franklin referred to.

The Boston incident supports my faith in the populace that they will come together to help others without any government bailout. if you let them people will be their “best selves”.

When the big snows hit Iowa they didn’t whine for government bailouts they all chipped in and rebuilt their lives with their community. Government is not community. Look at the Amish.

“Life is tough. It’s even tougher when you’re stupid” John Wayne.
I would offer an amendment. “Its even tougher when you expect someone else to bail you out”. I’m advocating responsibility for self. I’m advocating responsibility for others through Mitzvah not government.

April 19, 2013 at 9:55 am
(10) Trisha Torrey says:

Fair enough, Steve.

But we will have to agree to disagree (as we frequently do.)

I’m all about responsibility and because you are a frequent reader here, you know how much I tout taking responsibility for getting the care we need.

But I also believe that your description of “community” actually begs for government involvement. Agreed – “community” and “government” are not synonymous, but government is certainly the leadership role when it comes to a citizenry.

April 19, 2013 at 12:55 pm
(11) Joshua says:

The most common argument I see refers to us paying for each others’ doctor’s visits.
Many people who have healthcare have a portion paid by their employer, so the sting of healthcare premiums don’t hurt as badly. I am a contractor who does not have any portion of my healthcare paid by anyone. This leaves me with a $1200 monthly premium to cover my family. This doesn’t even pay much as it is a deductible plan that only kicks in after a $3500 deductible.
Steve’s argument that it makes one less likely to go to the doctor for every bump and bruise. Yes, this is true. However that bump may have been a tumor. That bruise may be caused by diabetes or circulatory problems. It’s amusing that Steve’s answer to resolving a lot of these healthcare problems is simply “don’t go to the doctor”.
Not every one has children, but the property taxes pay for the school system. No one complains.
Rachel, if you sleep better at night thinking your healthcare provider keeps your records safe and sound, more power to you. However, there are many people out there who have serious health issues and could care less if Uncle Sam knows. In fact, they wish Uncle Sam knew and cared to lend a hand.

April 19, 2013 at 2:25 pm
(12) Michele Renaud says:

Dear Trisha, Absolutely Agree with your sentiments and also can say the very same statement: I’m truly embarrassed that we, in the United States of America, don’t take care of our own innocent victim citizens any better than we do.

April 19, 2013 at 10:00 pm
(13) Dennis Grace says:

The theory that having some akin in the game will make us all more circumspect and less likely to be wasteful with medical insurance–the same theory that keeps driving company’s higher and higher–has near zero validity. Look at Canada, England, France–even Cuba. Their clinics are not overrun by scraped knees, ingrown toenails, and tummy aches. The point everyone forgets is that going to the doctor is a huge pain in the butt. It takes time from your own busy schedule and interrupts your personal work goals. Single-payer systems work. What’s enemy more embarrassing for us–with our laissez-faire capitalist medical establishment–is discovering after all these years of railing against socialism and praising competitive medical practices, we’re finally seeing the truth: the single payer system is not only just as efficient as our system–it’s far less expensive.

I’d move to Canada of it were a bit warmer. Maybe Martinique.

April 20, 2013 at 10:05 am
(14) Steve says:

Thanks Trisha. I know how committed you are to personal responsibility. Where we disagree is on the degree of government involvement and its balance with personal responsibility.

When we cede leadership of our communities to “government” it takes the responsibility away from the people.

“That government is best which governs least” attributed to Thomas Jefferson. The more government interferes with our lives the more dependent we become on it to run our lives for us.

This applies to healthcare as well.

Thanks for opening the topic.

April 20, 2013 at 11:08 pm
(15) oldteacher says:

Sad to hear that anyone in this country thinks we all have insurance….my (over 18) year old son is uninsurable in this country by virtue of a disease he was born with…so…. after reaching 18….no insurance….at any price. For anyone to think that everyone participating in the marathon has insurance speaks to the total disconnect between the insured and the uninsured. These folks, many of them, are in good health (good enough to run 26+ miles…could you?) and yet MAY not have or MAY NOT qualify for insurance in this country….so……repair those legs or cut them off becomes the REAL issue that the uninsured face….and cut them off (even if they are repairable….is what happens to the uninsured)….. Europe gets it…..we just think that illness and tragedy only happen to “others” and pour ourselves another drink…or check our stocks …..and retreat into the realm of narcissism

April 22, 2013 at 2:29 am
(16) Joshua says:


The old adage from Thomas Jefferson may have rung true in his day, but it is in no way true today. You put way too much trust in corporate America to do the right thing.
Do you think things like the Civil Rights Act, Minimum Wage Act, child labor laws, etc are unneeded because corporations were going to do those tnings anyway?
Do you want a government to just provide a national defense and manage a federal currency? You got it. Welcome to Somalia where the government has no control over anything.
Your argument of personal responsibility does not rebut any argumemt anyone proposes here in regards to having health insurance covering the injuries of those in Boston. Having access to medical care is a right not a priviledge. The moment you categorize it as a priviledge you empower other entities to take that priviledge from you.
Here’s my question to the rest of you folks:
Why is it OK for the government to spend billions on rebuilding foreign nations (including giving them health care benefits), but it’s not OK to give our own citizens those benefits? Why is it OK to spend billions on war but not on fixing problems at home?

April 22, 2013 at 4:13 pm
(17) Julie Sloway says:

Because this incident was deemed an act of terrorism, I feel that the Department of Homeland Security should pay for all medical expenses incurred by those who lost their lives and/or sustained any type of injury as a result of the explosions.


April 22, 2013 at 11:05 pm
(18) Joshua says:

Just a few quick things:
- Steve mentions mitzvah (Jewish concept of a good deed). Israel has a single payer system, and Judaism has no qualms against a government run healthcare system.
- Steve also compares seeking medical treatment using government healthcare to “government interference”. Odd but yeah.
- The phrase “slippery slope” is a logical fallacy. Anyone employing slippery slopes to support his argumemt invalidates it automatically.
- Was the quote from John Wayne regarding life being tough when stupid used in this case to call the bombing victims stupid? Or was the quote meant to teach the bombing victims personal responsibility?

April 22, 2013 at 11:49 pm
(19) ritalena says:

I agree with the writer….shouldn’t the government protect it’s citizens in public places. Where does the mayhem end? How does any one person know that going to school, mall, restaurant, movie theater or a marathon is going to kill or injure you. Many of these horrific acts are violent in nature and usually it’s a calculated move. It is the right of the government to protect it’s citizens.
In the Boston Marathon case, what are these victims going to do with their injuries, losses of legs, arms, etc. Why should they be burdened lifetime health issue when it was a terrorist act? That’s why we have homeland security and why our freedom is protected and cherished…should we live in constant fear wondering where the next bomb is going to go off? The government’s job is to protect it’s citizens even in the most basic ways which is everyday life. My prayers go out to all victims, it is a shame of how much violence we are seeing over and over again…innocent people injured/killed and mother nature had nothing to do with it. It was all because of human acts.

April 25, 2013 at 11:45 am
(20) Love2Travel1960 says:

Who is paying for the terrorist’s medical bills?; Who paid for his brother’s? Who pays for prisoner’s every need, including medical?
I’ll tell you who, us as tax payers. So yes, shame on our system that takes care of the perpetrators of crimes and not of the victims.
Insurance you say? If you’re lucky to have it, it doesn’t pay everything, and there may even be limitations based on anti-terror clauses.
We claim to be the best nation in the world…we should start acting like it.

April 25, 2013 at 12:57 pm
(21) carole nonnenmacher says:


July 28, 2013 at 6:15 pm
(22) Janice says:

I absolutely agree that it is time for the federal government to step up to the plate and help assist these innocent victims, not only the Boston bombing but any terrorist related event. I do not see that it is the same as healthcare costs for individuals who have incurred huge expenses due to disease or other life-threatening illness. Not at all.

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