New York nonprofit hospitals have sued nearly 31,000 patients for unpaid bills

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New York nonprofit hospitals have sued nearly 31,000 patients in the last five years to collect on bills that many patients couldn't afford, according to a report released last week from advocates of 3 million low-income New Yorkers. 

For its report, Community Service Society of New York researchers looked at civil court cases filed against individual patients by 139 hospitals in 26 counties from 2015 to 2019. The society analyzed the lawsuits in New York's eCourts public database. 

Five things to know:

1. The society found that New York's nonprofits sued 30,818 people. The median overdue amount sought in the lawsuits was $1,900, but the median judgment against patients was $2,300, which includes interest and court fees.

2. A handful of hospital systems are responsible for most patient lawsuits. Twenty-five out of 139 hospitals analyzed were responsible for 28,584  of the 30,818 lawsuits, or 93 percent.

3. New Hyde Park, N.Y.-based Northwell Health and its affiliates were responsible for 52 percent of all lawsuits against patients, the report said.  Northwell is followed by New York City-based NYU Langone Health, which was responsible for 2,801 lawsuits, or 9 percent of all lawsuits filed. 

4. The report found that, collectively, the hospitals that sued the most patients received more money from the state's hospitals Indigent Care Pool to provide uncompensated care to patients than they provided in financial assistance to these patients.

5. "Northwell Health does not file lawsuits on 99.9 percent of its patient bills," a spokesperson for the health system told news website Gothomist. "In the rare instances that Northwell Health takes legal action, it occurs only when a patient has been unresponsive to the multiple attempts made by Northwell Health to resolve the outstanding balance (including multiple offers for financial assistance, discounts and counseling) and the patient has a strong ability to pay the outstanding balance."

Access the full report here

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