A published report is taking a healthcare organization that operates two hospitals in Georgia to task for filing too many lawsuits attempting to recover unpaid debts.
The organization, Houston Healthcare, has filed 612 lawsuits in the past 12 years against individuals attempting to garnish wages, according to the report. That total is significantly higher than the number of lawsuits that have been filed by other healthcare organizations in the state, such as 50 filed by Coliseum Health System.
A spokesman for Houston Healthcare cited higher expenses, a low insurance reimbursement rate, and an increasing amount of unpaid debts from patients as the reasons why more lawsuits are being filed to recover payments.
Houston Healthcare offers an indigent care financial assistance program where individuals can apply to have their debts reduced or forgiven, but the report calls the application process “extensive.” One lawyer called the garnishment a form of “modern-day slavery,” because when an individual’s wages are garnished, it can start a cycle of debt and an inability to repay it.
The report notes that an unpaid debt owed to Houston Healthcare is transferred to a collection agency if no payment is made within 125 days of the date of service. It’s the collection agency’s decision whether to file a lawsuit against the individual or not, according to the report. Prior to the account being placed with the agency, the individual receives at least three notifications about the outstanding balance.