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Spotlighted for Filing Too Many Lawsuits, Hospital Decides to Stop

A hospital that was placed in the spotlight last week for filing lawsuits against patients with unpaid medical bills has announced it will suspend taking legal action against those individuals and may consider hiring a collection agency instead, according to a published report.

Mary Washington Hospital in Virginia was cited last week in a report published by the American Medical Association that detailed how non-profit hospitals were more likely to file lawsuits and seek garnishments against individuals with unpaid debts that their for-profit brethren. A court hears so many cases involving patients being sued by Mary Washington that it reserves one day a month just for those cases. One one day in June, the court handled 300 cases for the hospital’s network, 191 of which were new cases.

In an announcement on its website and Facebook page, the hospital announced it would suspend all current lawsuits filed against individuals and not initiate any new legal action.

Over the past few days, Mary Washington Healthcare has been placed in the spotlight challenging our collection practices for unpaid medical bills. As a result, we have reflected on our payment processes.

We have decided it is in our community’s best interest to suspend the practice of pursuing legal action for unpaid bills. We are committed to a complete re-evaluation of our entire payment process to ensure that all patients know they have access to care. As the region’s safety net hospital for more than 120 years, we are privileged to pledge our unwavering commitment to our community. We are also committed to being part of the solution to the broader financial issues facing our national healthcare system.

A senior vice president at the hospital said that turning unpaid debts over to a collection agency might be an option going forward.

Reading accounts from low-income individuals who had their wages garnished because of unpaid medical debts owed to the hospital were a key reason why the hospital decided to stop pursuing its legal strategy, the representative said.

The hospital wanted to handle the lawsuits itself because it thought “we could be a kinder, more gentler, compassionate steward of the collection process,” sad Eric Fletcher, a senior vice president at the hospital. “That’s caused us to show up on the court docket a little more and put a little more of a bull’s eye on our back.”

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