VCU Health overhauls debt collection practices

Richmond, Va.-based VCU Health is taking several steps to overhaul its collection practices, including halting seizure of patients' wages and removing liens on patients' homes, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

The moves after a Kaiser Health News investigation revealed VCU Health pursued thousands of patients for overdue bills, filed liens against patients' homes and garnished patients' wages. The system and its physicians filed more than 56,000 debt-collection lawsuits over seven years, ending in 2018. Some of system's collection practices pushed patients into bankruptcy, according to the report. 

The health system is overhauling its aggressive collection practices. It's canceling liens against patients' homes, some dating back 30 years, and halting garnishment of wages.

"Health care needs to be more affordable for patients, and we want to be part of the solution," Melinda Hancock, VCU Health's CFO and chief administrative officer, told the Richmond Times-Dispatch. "We believe that no hospital bill should change the economic status of a family."

Another Virginia health system, Charlottesville-based University of Virginia Health System is also changing its collection practices. The health system said it will only seek court judgments against families making more than 400 percent of federal poverty guidelines, according to the report.

Since the KHN investigation last year, VCU Health and UVA Health System have increased discounts for uninsured patients and upped financial assistance.

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