Hospitals still aggressively collecting medical debt amid pandemic

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Despite government shutdowns and increased economic hardship among Americans, hospitals are continuing to use aggressive tactics like garnishing wages to collect past-due medical debt, according to a report from ProPublica and MLK50: Justice Through Journalism.

The report shared examples of hospitals in Baltimore, Memphis, Tenn., and Wisconsin that are attempting to collect medical debt while many Americans see their income decrease due to the pandemic. In one example, Froedtert Hospital in Milwaukee filed 46 small claims lawsuits in recent weeks despite a state of emergency declaration that took place March 12. Other hospitals in the state have continued their debt collection practices despite increased pressure from COVID-19, according to a report from Wisconsin Watch and the Wisconsin Public Radio.

A spokesperson from Froedtert told ProPublica that the hospital system stopped filing small claims suits March 18. The spokesperson said a since-corrected miscommunication led to small claims lawsuits being filed after that date, and the system has dismissed those cases.

Jenifer Bosco, a staff attorney for the National Consumer Law Center, told ProPublica it's likely that collection from cases that hospitals filed months before the pandemic will continue to be sought.

Read the full ProPublica/MLK50 report here.

More articles on healthcare finance:
More than $1B in bailout funds go to CHS, HCA and UHS
214-bed Kentucky hospital closes
Cash crunch from COVID-19 could force 100 hospitals to close

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