Why hospitals don't treat everyone equally

J. R Rivera heard "detonations" nearby as he went about his day in Chicago's Gage Park neighborhood. Then came the pain. He looked down to see blood oozing from a bullet hole in his thigh. After nearly a week at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, the otherwise healthy 49-year-old was eager to start physical therapy. But Rivera says doctors told him to go somewhere else for that somewhere that takes patients who don't have health insurance. In a statement, Advocate declines to comment on his case but says, "We treat all people regardless of their ability to pay." Amid a broadening public debate over social inequities in America, Rivera's experience illustrates disparities in medical care. Uninsured and underinsured patients like Rivera often get turned away when they seek nonemergency treatment at leading hospitals. The unequal treatment is rooted in a financial model that favors patients with well-paying private coverage. As a result, low-income patients many of whom are minorities find themselves excluded from many of the area's top hospitals. That can mean less access to state-of-the-art technology and world-class specialists.