Coalition wants Johns Hopkins to drop medical debt lawsuits against low-income patients

A coalition of Baltimore citizens, backed by two unions, presented a letter and petition June 17 to Baltimore-based Johns Hopkins Hospital President Redonda Miller, MD, calling on the hospital to drop medical debt lawsuits against patients.

The group, called the Coalition for A Humane Hopkins, published a joint report with National Nurses United and AFL-CIO last month that found the hospital won wage garnishments or seized funds from patient bank accounts in more than 400 cases. The groups claim the hospital seized the last $100 in a patient's bank account in at least two instances. The report also alleges this issue disproportionately affects a primarily African American and low-income zip code in Baltimore.

The letter and petitions come after the hospital allegedly emptied the last funds from former patient Lakesha Spence's bank account for the second time in two months. The first time, she went to court and a judge ruled the hospital had to return the money.

The coalition wants the hospital to stop filing medical debt lawsuits, drop all current medical debt lawsuits and reimburse patients billed more than allowed under charity care rules. It also wants the hospital to be more transparent about its charity care rules by increasing signage and screening patients at admission to see if they are eligible for charity care. Lastly, it wants the hospital to offer charity care to patients who are not citizens of the U.S.

However, Johns Hopkins spokesperson Kim Hoppe said the hospital does provide financial assistance and charity care information to every patient. Ms. Hoppe provided Becker's the following statement:

"It is always our priority to provide the best possible care to every patient who comes to us. We have an extraordinary community benefits program, and it is our policy to inform our patients about our programs for free and discounted services. For patients who choose not to pursue those options or who have a demonstrated ability to pay, we will still make every effort to reach out to them and to accommodate their schedule and needs. In those rare occasions when a patient who has the ability to pay chooses not to, we then honor our obligation as a hospital in the state of Maryland, with its unique payer model, to pursue reimbursement."


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