A nonprofit system of five hospitals in Memphis is under the spotlight this week, after a published report revealed the organization has filed more than 8,000 lawsuits against former patients for unpaid debts in the past five years, including employees who work at the facilities.
The organization — Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare — was the second-most prolific filer of lawsuits against individuals for unpaid debts between 2014 and 2018, according to the report. Methodist owns its own collection agency — Consolidated Recovery Systems, a unit of Revenue Assurance Professionals.
The report comes just days after a study was released that revealed nonprofit hospitals were more likely to sue former patients for unpaid debts and obtain garnishments than for-profit hospital facilities.
One out of four residents in Memphis live below the federal poverty line and the published report details how many of them are trying to pay off tens of thousands in unpaid bills while still trying to make ends meet. The company has sued “dozens” of current and former employees, according to the report, including a hospital housekeeper who owes $23,000 but only makes $16,000 per year.
The report notes that other area hospital networks file their fair share of lawsuits against individuals for unpaid debts. Compared to the 8,300 filed by Methodist between 2014 and 2018, Baptist Memorial Health Care filed 6,700 and Regional One Health filed 1,900. Methodist sought garnishments on 46% of its lawsuits, compared with 36% for Regional One and 20% at Baptist.
Methodist opted not to comment for the report, which leaves only those who have been sued and consumer advocates to share their sides of the story. And there are a lot of anecdotes and stories from individuals who are trying to get by on what little they make and are also trying to fulfill their obligations.