Settlement Reached With Blind Patient After Collection Letters Not Sent in Braille

A healthcare provider has reached a settlement in a lawsuit that accused it of violating the Americans with Disabilities Act by not sending collection letters to a blind patient in braille, as the patient requested.

The plaintiff will receive $150,000 in damages, attorneys fees, and debt forgiveness under the terms of the settlement, which was reached with Nash UNC Health Care. The settlement is part of a larger lawsuit filed against the UNC Health Care System, according to a published report.

In his complaint — a copy of which can be accessed by clicking here — the plaintiff claimed he twice visited the defendant’s emergency services department and received treatment. Along with receiving services from the defendant, the plaintiff was also treated by a number of the provider’s contractors. The plaintiff claimed that he told hospital staff he was blind and that he would need to receive any medical bills in braille, but neither the hospital nor its contractors did so initially. At least three of the contractors referred the debts to collection agencies because the plaintiff was unable to determine how much he owed. The plaintiff retained counsel, who contacted the healthcare provider, at which point it sent the bills in braille to the plaintiff. But none of the contractors provided bills in braille, according to the complaint.

Under the ADA, qualified individuals are required to receive equal opportunity to access the benefits, services, programs, or activities of a public entity. Contractors associated with a public entity are also required to comply with the provisions of the ADA.

“With today’s technology, providing bills, medical records and treatment instructions in alternative formats, such as Braille and large print, is readily achievable,” said Mark Riccobono, president of the National Federation of the Blind, in the report. “We believe this settlement sends a strong message that medical providers should take this legal and moral obligation seriously. We are happy to work with health care entities who want guidance in providing medical information in accessible formats.”

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