3 health systems that have changed, suspended debt-collection practices

Several U.S. health systems have suspended or made changes to their debt-collection practices after media coverage of the issue.

In Tennessee, Memphis-based Methodist Le Bonheur Health suspended debt-collection lawsuits after an investigation by MLK50 and ProPublica. The investigation found that the system filed more than 8,300 lawsuits against patients from 2014 through 2018.  

The system told NPR and MLK50 it is examining its policies and procedures "to ensure we are doing everything possible to provide the communities we serve with the care and assistance they need."

Similarly, Fredericksburg, Va.-based Mary Washington Healthcare has also paused suing patients for unpaid medical bills.

The health system suspended  lawsuits against patients through September after research published last month in JAMA and reported on by media found 36 percent of Virginia hospitals garnished patient wages to collect payment for medical bills in 2017.

Mary Washington also received court approval to move up trials initially scheduled for the fall so the health system can suspend those cases, according to the Free Lance–Star. It, too, is reviewing its billing and payment processes.

And in Utah, Salt Lake City-based University of Utah Health has eliminated a policy under which it billed surviving spouses of patients for debt after an investigation by CBS affiliate TV station KUTV.

Kathy Delis, administrative director of revenue cycle support service for the system, told KUTV the organization is "changing our policy to no longer bill patients' surviving spouses for debt. Instead, we will bill the estate or the probate."

 

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