Hospitals Continue Suing Patients for Overdue Payments Amid Pandemic

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A report provided to the Centers for Disease Control revealed that NYS’s nursing homes and rehabilitation facilities now have dwindling occupancy rates. Photo Credit: AP

By Marisa Herman(NEWSMAX)

Hospitals in some of the areas impacted the most by the coronavirus have resumed suing patients over missed or overdue payments, Axios reports.

According to Axios, lawsuits show hospitals have sued to collect medical bills ranging from under $1,000 to upward of more than $125,000.

The suits come as many people face financial hardship induced by coronavirus lockdowns and layoffs.

Axios reports that about two dozen Community Health Systems in Florida, Texas and Arizona have sued patients since the pandemic began. Some stopped or slowed down during the height of the outbreak over the spring, but over the summer, the lawsuits ramped up again in states being hit hard by the virus.

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

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

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

A Texas hospital is suing patient Richard Piper for close to $35,000, plus court fees, attorneys’ fees and interest.

“I am [writing] this response to inform you of my inability to [pay] this outstanding medical Debt, I only bring home a check of 525 dollars a week and [am] helping two daughters with my grandkids,” Piper wrote earlier this month in a letter to the judge in the case.

He noted that he told the hospital he didn’t have insurance and couldn’t afford treatment. He said he was told he couldn’t leave. Upon discharge, he said he wasn’t given any type of relief option to help with payments.

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

In a statement, Community Health Systems said, “legal action is always 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 charity care, discounts and flexible payment plans… Sometimes legal action is the only path through which patients will engage in a conversation about the amount they owe for healthcare services that have already been provided,” the statement reads. “Individuals who are currently a defendant in a collection suit and who have had a change in their financial status due to COVID-19 are urged to call 866-450-0044.”