'We felt betrayed': University of Virginia physicians slam system's debt-collection methods

Physicians at Charlottesville-based University of Virginia Health System have penned a letter to Kaiser Health News saying they are dismayed by revelations about the health system's billing and collections practices.

KHN published the letter Nov. 23, more than two months after a KHN analysis revealed that the health system and its physicians sued former patients more than 36,000 times over a six-year period ending in June 2018, seizing wages and putting liens on homes.

"As physicians at UVA Health and educators at the University of Virginia, we were appalled by the revelations of the aggressive, pitiless billing and collections practices," wrote Scott K. Heysell, MD, Michael D. Williams, MD, and Rebecca A. Dillingham, MD. "We felt betrayed, and we had, by extension, betrayed those who had relied on us. We had harmed."

The health system announced billing and collection changes after the KHN analysis came out in September, and last month it established an advisory council to improve billing and collection policies.

The UVA physicians praised the health system for announcing reforms to reduce debt-collection lawsuits and making more financial support available, but they said they "are uncertain how many future lawsuits will be prevented by restricting that punitive action to those with bills of more than $1,000," and asked why UVA "cannot join other public hospitals that have effectively stopped suing patients altogether?"

They called for "an immediate solution" to address healthcare pricing and billing across the U.S.


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