Hospitals garnish wages of low-income workers more, New York study finds

New York patients working in low-income occupations were more likely to have their wages garnished to satisfy medical debt judgments, according to a July 20 report. 

Researchers at the low-income advocacy group Community Service Society of New York analyzed a random sample of 1,611 wage garnishment cases from five nonprofit hospitals that sued 12,411 patients between 2015 and 2020, according to the report. 

Six things to know: 

1. The sample of 1,611 wage garnishment cases found that 24 percent worked for healthcare and social service agencies; 20 percent worked in manufacturing; and 15 percent worked in retail. 

2. Most of New York’s 212 nonprofit hospitals never sue or very rarely sue patients when they are unable to pay for care, according to the report.

3. There were 112 hospitals across the state's 62 counties that sued 53,182 patients in civil court over medical debt between 2015 and 2020. 

4. Twenty hospitals in 15 counties were responsible for 80 percent of the state's medical debt cases. 

5. The median amount of medical debt sought in lawsuits was $1,900.

6. New York lawmakers recently passed a bill that would prohibit providers from garnishing wages or putting liens of primary residences to satisfy judgments in medical debt lawsuits, according to a July 20 Community Service Society news release. The bill awaits the governor's signature.   

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