A couple of interesting stories related to healthcare collections from outside the United States. First, there is an Australian debt collector that has been ordered to pay $750,000 in penalties for trying to collect from two individuals, one of whom had suffered a stroke and could barely speak. The other is a report from the Irish Cancer Society that details how patients with cancer are often “harassed” by debt collectors.
In Australia, the collector was attempting to recover unpaid telecom debts from two individuals. One of the individuals had suffered a stroke and was in a long-term care facility. The agency called the facility more than 40 times demanding payment from the individual, and even forced the facility to put the individual on the phone to prove he was disabled. The man was forced to utter words like “stroke,” “no,” and “speech.”
The agency’s “continued harassment and intimidation of a care facility resident who had difficulty speaking after suffering multiple strokes is one of the worst cases of unconscionable conduct we have seen in the debt collection sector,” said Sarah Court, a commissioner with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.
In Ireland, cancer patients are being threatened with legal action and having their names published in local newspapers for not paying their medical bills, according to a report from the Irish Cancer Society.
The agencies are following policy set forth by the country’s Health Services Executive, a government agency. The Society is aiming to start a drive that seeks to change the policy to be more empathetic toward cancer patients.
“These letters are being sent to patients who are dealing with the physical impact of their cancer, the emotional impact and all the other stresses with their family and they really can’t cope with this stress, as well,” said Averil Power, head of the Irish Cancer Society.