Memphis hospital CEOs: Debt collection policies being reassessed, but we're still businesses

Four hospital CEOs discussed how they're addressing growing scrutiny around patient debt collection while juggling the unique difficulties that healthcare businesses face, according to the Commercial Appeal.

The CEOs of Memphis, Tenn.-based hospitals Regional One Health, Methodist Le Bonheur, Baptist Memorial Hospital and St. Francis Hospital discussed their collection policies Dec. 3 during a panel at the University of Memphis. Reginald Coopwood, MD, CEO of Regional One Health, said his hospital felt the need to reassess its debt collection policy after investigations uncovered that Memphis hospitals sometimes used aggressive tactics to retrieve payment.

"We have a great passion to deliver great care to whoever walks into our door. The flip side of that is ... if everybody cannot pay their bills, we can't buy $100 million record systems and we can't buy technology that the community as a whole wants," Dr. Coopwood said, according to the Commercial Appeal. "So we have policies to collect whatever is collectible from individuals."

The investigation prompted hospitals to reduce debt. In one instance, Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare erased medical debt for more than 6,500 patients.

Still, Dr. Coopwood said, "At the end of the day, we're businesses, and in order to stay in business, we have to be able — in order to take care of those that are uninsured — we have to be a profitable business."

Read the full report here.

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