A battle is brewing in the Mile High City between the union representing healthcare workers at hospitals and facilities and one of the nation’s largest hospital chains, with the union accusing the provider of being too “aggressive” with its collection efforts on unpaid medical bills, among other claims.
The union — Service Employees International Union — has launched a campaign that includes a website and commercials on television stations across Colorado seeking to make the public aware of these claims, which include accusing HealthOne, a unit of HCA Healthcare, having “blitzed” Colorado residents with aggressive collection lawsuits. The union also claims the company has kept facilities understaffed and not provided frontline workers with enough personal protective equipment.
HealthOne operates eight hospitals across Denver and has sued thousands of individuals, while the company has reported “hundreds of millions” of dollars in profits, according to the SEIU.
“We feel morally obligated to make people aware about HCA Healthcare HealthONE executives continuing these bad practices amidst the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Ron Ruggiero, President of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 105, which represents healthcare industry workers in Colorado, in a statement. “Especially given the large profits this company makes in the Denver area market, Colorado patients and healthcare workers should be prioritized by HealthONE and HCA and right now, that’s not happening. We’ve seen similar patterns by HCA hospitals across the country and it is a disturbing trend of greed. We intend to let the public know that we believe HealthONE and HCA have been aggressively putting profits over patients. Lives are at stake and their federal bailout money should be used to improve staffing and to provide adequate PPE, not just to drive up profits.”
A spokesperson for HealthOne detailed steps it has taken to try and minimize the financial impact of unpaid medical bills on its patients.
“HealthOne also provides hundreds of millions of dollars in community benefit through local, state and federal taxes; charitable contributions to community groups; health education and community health improvement efforts; medical research; charity care; uninsured discounts; and other uncompensated care,” said Angie Anania, according to a published report. “She said HealthOne hospitals do not bill patients for care related to COVID-19, have not laid off or furloughed employees due to the pandemic and implemented a pandemic pay program for workers.”