Wisconsin hospital still suing patients for overdue debt despite vow to curb practice during pandemic

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Despite vowing to slow or curb debt lawsuits amid the pandemic, Froedtert South, a general hospital in Kenosha, Wis., has filed at least 231 lawsuits against patients to recoup medical debt since April, according to an investigative report from Wisconsin Watch and Wisconsin Public Radio. 

Earlier this year, Wisconsin Watch and WPR found that hospitals statewide, including Froedtert South, sued dozens of patients during the early weeks of the pandemic. In response, the hospitals pledged to pause or at least slow down aggressive debt collection during the pandemic.

"As a general matter, Froedtert South has suspended filing small-claim suits during the COVID-19 pandemic," J. Thomas Duncan III, the hospital’s vice president and COO wrote in an April 1 email to Wisconsin Watch and WPR. "However, in rare circumstances, certain small- claim suits may be filed to preserve Froedtert South rights. For example: If a medical debt has been in existence for six years, and the statute of limitations is about to end."

However, the new report found that Froedtert South recently has initiated hundreds of lawsuits  after filing just four debt lawsuits in April and two in May, according to the report.

The report also found that Froedtert South has filed more lawsuits this year than it did in 2019. In 2020, the hospital has sued 314 patients, compared to 282 patients in 2019. 

The 314 lawsuits this year seek to recoup about $1.1 million in debt and range from $555 to $9,970 per lawsuit, according to the report.

The investigative report also found that eight of the patients being sued have filed for bankruptcy this year, according to the report. 

Froedtert South declined to comment on Wisconsin Watch and WPR's latest story. 

Read the full report here

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