UVA moves to dismiss 14 medical debt lawsuits, changes collection practices after media probe

The University of Virginia Health System in Charlottesville moved to drop 14 medical debt lawsuits and change collection practices after a special report for The Washington Post revealed it sued thousands of former patients, seized wages and put liens on homes, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

The special report, which highlighted a Kaiser Health News analysis, found that the University of Virginia Health System and its physicians sued former patients more than 36,000 times for about $106 million over a six-year period ending in June 2018.

After the report was published Sept. 9, the health system moved to dismiss 14 cases that were on Albemarle County General District Court's docket Sept. 12, according to the Times-Dispatch. The cases were dropped due to lack of evidence, but the university could file charges again, the newspaper reported.

In addition to dropping the 14 medical debt lawsuits, the univeristy has been reviewing its financial assistance policies and announced policy changes Sept. 13.

Senior correspondent Jay Hancock and Elizabeth Lucas, data editor for Kaiser Health News, reported in The Washington Post that the university said it will increase financial assistance, provide larger discounts to the uninsured and "reduce our reliance on the legal system."

"This will have a huge impact on patients to the good," Doug Lischke, CFO of UVA Health System, told Mr. Hancock and Ms. Lucas, adding that the move will "positively, drastically reduce the legal process" of lawsuits, garnishments and property liens.

Mr. Lischke told the authors no decision has been made on currently scheduled lawsuits.

The policy changes, with a Jan. 1 effective date, will apply to patients treated in July 2017 or after and will cost UVA "millions to tens of millions," he added. 

Mr. Lischke also told the report's authors that the health system may add more financial help later and expects to ask Virginia lawmakers to change legislation that requires the health system and other state agencies to "aggressively collect" debt and charge a certain interest amount.

The health system said it won't file lawsuits against patients unless balances exceed $1,000 and families make more than 400 percent of the federal poverty level, with the exception of "unusual circumstances," and will provide 40 percent discounts to uninsured patients.

Read the full Washington Post report here


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