A magazine in Kansas has published a deep-dive feature looking at the collection practices of a hospital in the state, one that reportedly accounts for two-thirds of the collection lawsuits filed by all healthcare facilities. But unlike many of the other articles that have done similar investigations, this one attempts to lay out the complexities and difficult decisions that need to be made by hospitals seeking to balance recovering money to help stay in business with providing care to anyone who needs it.
The article does try to make it seem like individuals were sent to jail for not paying their medical bills — those people were jailed because they did not appear for court hearings and a bench warrant was issued.
Hospitals and healthcare facilities in Texas, Virginia, Oklahoma, New York, Tennessee, and Maryland have all been accused in published reports of being too aggressive with their collection efforts. Many hospitals stopped filing collection lawsuits and enforcing judgments as a result of the publicity.
Lengthy statements outlining their collection practices, especially detailing how filing a lawsuit is a last resort, were provided by the hospital and the separate medical practice that operates the hospital’s emergency room. In response to the magazine’s inquiry, the emergency room has said it will no longer seek to have bench warrants issued when an individual fails to show up for a court hearing.
The hospital said its collection practices are in line with guidelines set forth by the Internal Revenue Service for non-profit facilities, and that it raised the minimum balance threshold for a lawsuit to filed to $750 from $500.