Mississippi hospital has sued more than 100 of its own employees over medical debt, report finds

Jackson, Miss.-based St. Dominic Hospital has sued thousands of patients over unpaid medical debt in recent years, many of whom work in low-wage industries or at the hospital itself, according to an investigation conducted by the Mississippi Center for Investigative Reporting and published Aug. 22 in The Clarion-Ledger.

St. Dominic Hospital is one of central Mississippi’s largest employers, with nearly 5,000 employees, according to recent tax filings.

The investigation found that the hospital and its debt collectors sued patients in Hinds County more than 3,600 times between 2018 and 2020.

It also found that St. Dominic Hospital sued more than a hundred of its own employees over medical debt, billed thousands of patients who qualified for free or reduced medical care and increased patients' bills by a third or more through attorney's fees, court expenses and 8 percent interest rates.

The hospital also seized money from patients' bank accounts and garnished some debtors' wages, according to the investigation. 

"St. Dominic joined the Franciscan Missionaries of Our Lady Health System in 2019 with changes to processes and policies in alignment with the health system. St. Dominic no longer pursues individual lawsuits or wage garnishments for patient billing debt," the hospital said in a statement emailed to Becker's.

The hospital also said it has established various ways to help patients pay their portion of their bill, including partnerships with health plans and networks, flexible payment plan options and charity policies that include discounts for uninsured patients. 

"Not-for-profit healthcare organizations operate on thin margins, investing directly back into the evolving medicine, technology, specialization and focused services necessary and expected for the care of the community," the hospital said. "To maintain our commitment to the community and continue important healthcare services to those in need, we have a responsibility to be financially sustainable, just as all organizations must."


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