Athletes leave unpaid medical bills at hospital
X Games athletes last year left Aspen Valley Hospital with $5,000 in unpaid bills.And two French skiers’ $30,000 in bills from injuries they suffered during the World Cup races earlier this month may be unrecoverable, said Pitkin County emergency management coordinator Ellen Anderson. Those athletes’ unpaid hospital bills may come up today when the Pitkin County commissioners consider the permit for the ESPN Winter X Games. “We don’t want high-risk events to overtax the community by leaving debts and leaving everyone wiped out,” Anderson said.Aspen Valley Hospital recently approached bankruptcy partly because of millions in unpaid bills. The CEO and chief financial officer were fired, along with 34 other employees, and the hospital got back on track with a new business plan. Dave Ressler, CEO of Aspen Valley Hospital, said he didn’t know anything about athletes’ unpaid bills. “To us they are just individuals,” he said.This year the X Games, in a nod to the medical community, is requiring all participants to show proof of medical insurance. Participants without insurance, such as athletes from countries with socialized insurance, are covered up to $25,000 by event insurance and in excess of that amount by ESPN.Anderson said the increase in the number of injuries also taxes hospital staff, but Ressler said it is not a major problem.”Does our staff get tired?” Ressler said, “absolutely.”But Ressler said the hospital increases staff for large seasonal swings. “It’s one of the best times of the year for the hospital,” he said. “It’s part of who we are. I think these events are fantastic for the community.”Commissioners may bring up the subject of unpaid bills today when the X Games requests the land-use permit from Pitkin County.”They do things at the X Games that are just absurd,” Commissioner Mick Ireland said, “like the scissors relay … I’ll do the next lap on my motorcycle.”Joel Stonington’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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