Debt-collection lawsuits from hospitals receive federal attention

CMS Administrator Seema Verma and consumer advocates are speaking out about recent media reports that highlighted hospitals' medical debt collection practices and lawsuits they filed against patients, according to ProPublica.

Memphis, Tenn.-based nonprofit hospital system Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare; Fredericksburg, Va.-based nonprofit Mary Washington Hospital; Charlottesville-based state-run University of Virginia Health System; and Carlsbad (N.M.) Medical Center are among the organizations that have come under scrutiny over the last few months.

In response to the media reports, Ms. Verma expressed her viewpoint.

"We are learning the lengths to which certain nonprofit hospitals go to collect the full list price from uninsured patients," she said during a Sept. 10 American Hospital Association meeting in Washington, according to published remarks. "These hospitals are referring patients to debt collectors, garnishing wages, placing liens on property and even suing patients into bankruptcy."

"This is unacceptable. Hospitals must be paid for their work, but it's actions like these that have led to calls for a complete Washington takeover of the entire healthcare system," she added.

Consumer advocates are also expressing concerns about the findings about hospitals' litigation practices, according to ProPublica.

"It's dismaying to see how common it is," Jenifer Bosco, an attorney with the National Consumer Law Center, told the nonprofit news organization.

Generally, hospitals have taken the increased attention and used it as an opportunity to review their collection practices and make changes in areas that can be improved.

 

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