Another healthcare network has announced it is instructing its network of third-party collection agencies to stop filing lawsuits against individuals with unpaid medical debts as consumer advocates call for non-profit hospitals to stop working with doctors who “aggressively pursue” individuals with unpaid bills.
TeamHealth, a 20,000-employee healthcare organization based in Tennessee announced that as of Dec. 1, it will no longer file lawsuits against individuals with unpaid debts and was discontinuing any further pursuit of ongoing cases. The company also announced it was expanding its discount policies, especially for those without health insurance.
“We are part of a broad coalition of physicians across the country that fully support banning surprise medical bills through federal legislation,” TeamHealth President and Chief Executive Leif Murphy wrote in a letter announcing the changes.”
Published reports have spotlighted the collection practices at a host of other healthcare networks. Hospitals in Virginia, Oklahoma, New York, Tennessee, and Maryland have all been accused of being too aggressive with their collection efforts. But this marks the first time that doctors at a healthcare organization have spoken out against how the bills associated with the treatments provided by the doctors are collected.
Meanwhile, on the other end of the transaction, consumer advocates are lobbying for hospitals, especially non-profits, to cut ties with doctors that the advocates deem are too aggressive in collecting on unpaid debts.
Mark Rukavina, business development manager at Community Catalyst’s Center for Consumer Engagement in Health Innovation, a national advocacy organization, said nonprofit hospitals shouldn’t work with physicians groups that aggressively pursue patients for medical debts.
“They could say, ‘If you’re going to provide services in our hospital, you’re going to comply with our financial assistance policy,’” Rukavina said.