Patients sue UK HealthCare over debt collection practices

Five patients have filed a lawsuit against Lexington, Ky.-based UK HealthCare and the Kentucky Department of Revenue, alleging their debt collection practices violate patients' rights to due process, according to WFPL

Every year, thousands of UK HealthCare patients see their wages garnished and liens put on their property by the Kentucky Department of Revenue to pay off medical debt. UK HealthCare, the only health system in the state that can utilize the Department of Revenue for collections, has collected more than $76 million from patients through these means since 2009. When the Department of Revenue collects, it adds a 25 percent fee plus interest to the debt, according to the report. 

The class-action lawsuit filed June 4 alleges UK HealthCare and the state Department of Revenue are violating patients' rights to due process by bypassing the legal system for debt collections and collecting debts without providing adequate notice or giving patients an opportunity to contest the debts, according to the report. 

"For too long, UK HealthCare and the Kentucky Department of Revenue have bypassed the Due Process Clause in their rush to collect," Claudia Wilner, director of litigation and advocacy at the National Center for Law and Economic Justice, said in a press release. 

The patients who filed the lawsuit are represented by the National Center for Law and Economic Justice and the Kentucky Equal Justice Center. 

A UK HealthCare spokesperson said the health system only sends debts to the state for collections after making several attempts to reach the patient and exhausting other collection methods, according to the report. The spokesperson said he couldn't comment on the pending litigation. 

The lawsuit is seeking an order stopping UK HealthCare and the Department of Revenue from collecting debts until patients are provided adequate notice and a chance to challenge the debts, according to the report. 

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