Hospital debts leading to prison sentences, report finds

A growing number of hospitals and debt collectors are using contempt of court laws to arrest and imprison patients with unpaid medical bills, according to Law360.

More hospitals are using aggressive collection tactics as patients face growing medical expenses. In 2019, a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found in Virginia alone, patients faced 20,000 lawsuits from hospitals in 2017, according to the report. 

Today, 44 states allow authorities to arrest someone who doesn't provide a creditor with financial information or doesn't appear in court after receiving an order, according to the report. Some states, including Washington and Illinois, have moved to keep these laws from affecting those with medical debt. 

Michael Satz, a professor at the University of Idaho College of Law in Moscow, told Law360 the nation's collection system is built on "old statutes" that aren't necessarily meant to address medical debt. This has led to an increase in medical debtors being jailed for missing a court order for their debt, he told the publication. 

Read the full article here.

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