Vanderbilt University Medical Center wants CHS to change debt collection policies

A hospital in Clarksville, Tenn., has sued 750 patients this year, despite being co-owned by Vanderbilt University Medical Center, which has a policy against suing patients, according to WPLN News

Community Health Systems, a for-profit hospital operator based in Franklin, Tenn., took over Tennova Healthcare Clarksville in 2010. This year, Nashville-based Vanderbilt acquired a minority interest in the hospital. 

WPLN News has been investigating CHS' debt collection practices. Court records obtained by the public radio station show Tennova Healthcare Clarksville has sued 9,000 patients since it was acquired by CHS, including the 750 actions filed this year. Vanderbilt learned of the lawsuits filed this year when WPLN News asked the medical center for comment. 

In response, Vanderbilt said it is asking CHS to review its debt collection policies. 

"VUMC cannot impact CHS' approach to medical debt collection for services prior to our involvement," a Vanderbilt spokesperson told WPLN News. "We will encourage Tennova Clarksville to review its patient financial policies to address this issue." 

A CHS spokesperson told Becker's Hospital Review the company continually evaluates modifications to its collection practices. 

Since January, the company has only sued patients who make at least twice the federal poverty level. The spokesperson told Becker's the company will withdraw litigation against any patient whose annual income is below 200 percent of the federal poverty level, and the change also will apply to prior judgments. 

"Some of these may not have made it through all the court processes yet, but the dismissals have been initiated," the spokesperson said July 26. "Any individual who is currently a defendant in a collection suit and who has an annual income less than 200 percent of the federal poverty line is encouraged to call 1-800-755-5152 and submit a financial assistance application."

Read the full WPLN News article here

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