Hospitals continue to sue patients for late payments amid pandemic

Hospitals in some of the regions worst hit by the coronavirus have resumed suing patients for missed or late payments, Axes reports.

According to Axios, lawsuits show hospitals have sued to collect medical bills ranging from less than $ 1,000 to over $ 125,000.

The lawsuits come as many people face financial hardship brought on by coronavirus lockdowns and layoffs.

Axios reports that about two dozen community health systems in Florida, Texas and Arizona have sued patients since the start of the pandemic. Some stopped or slowed down during the height of the outbreak in the spring, but over the summer lawsuits escalated again in states hard hit by the virus.

Between Jan. 1 and Aug. 14, hospitals filed dozens and sometimes even hundreds of lawsuits against patients, according to Axios’ review of online court records.

In one case, the Western Arizona Regional Medical Center filed a lawsuit against Blair Smiley for the third time in two years in June.

Smiley told Axios that she thinks the hospital is only filing one complaint against her. She said she didn’t know how much the hospital is suing her for. She assumes that the medical treatment they are seeking payment for involves two trips to the hospital for her daughter when she was uninsured. She said she didn’t have enough money to pay her medical bills.

A Texas hospital is suing patient Richard Piper for nearly $ 35,000, plus court costs, attorney fees, and interest.

“I am [writing] this response to inform you of my inability to [pay] this unpaid medical debt, I only take home a check for $ 525 a week and [am] helping two daughters with my grandchildren, ”Piper wrote earlier this month in a letter to the judge in the case.

He noted that he had told the hospital that he did not have insurance and that he could not afford treatment. He said he was told he couldn’t leave. When he was released, he said he was not given any kind of fallback option to help with the payments.

“If I had the money and could afford a lawyer, I would sue the hospital for the price hikes,” he told Axios. “When they want to charge you $ 19 for a bandage, that’s ridiculous.”

In a statement, Community Health Systems said “legal action is still the last avenue considered.”

“Our affiliated hospitals offer resources to help patients understand their financial responsibilities and the support available to pay their bill, such as charitable care, discounts and flexible payment plans… Sometimes legal action is the only one. a way in which patients will engage in a conversation about how much they owe for health services that have already been provided, ”the statement said. “People who are currently defendants in a collection action and who have changed their financial situation due to COVID-19 are encouraged to call 866-450-0044. “

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