UVA Health seizing patients' home equity to cover old hospital bills

Despite vowing to change its medical debt collection process last year, University of Virginia Health System in Charlottesville continues to seize patients' home equity to cover unpaid medical bills — some of which are more than a decade old, according to Kaiser Health News

An investigation by Kaiser Health News last year found that the UVA Health System and its physicians sued thousands of former patients, seized wages and put liens on homes. Specifically, the report found that the health system sued patients 36,000 times over a six-year period for more than $100 million. 

In response to the investigation, the system said it temporarily suspended patient lawsuits, increased discounts for uninsured patients and broadened financial assistance, according to the report. 

However, Kaiser Health News reported that UVA Health System continues to rely on property liens to collect old bills.

In one case, Doris Hutchinson sold her late mother's home to help pay off bills and help her grandchildren pay for college. However, she learned shortly after the sale was finalized that UVA Health System was taking $38,000 of the proceeds after it placed a lien on the property due to an unpaid, 13-year-old medical bill for Ms. Hutchinson's late brother. 

"It was a mess," Ms. Hutchinson told Kaiser Health News. "There are bills I could pay with that money. I could pay off my car, for one thing."

A UVA Health spokesperson told the publication that the number of new property liens is small. The spokesperson declined to comment on how many old or new UVA Health liens exist.

Property liens are a tactic used by many hospitals across the U.S. to collect patient medical debt. Legal experts say they often remain unseen before they surface to claim inheritance proceeds or family savings, according to the report. 

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