UVA Health said yesterday that it is canceling many of its outstanding liens and judgments resulting from collection lawsuits dating back to the 1990s. The move is expected to impact tens of thousands of families.
UVA was one of several hospitals and healthcare networks across the country that have been spotlighted in recent years for engaging in what critics have labeled “aggressive” collection efforts by filing lawsuits seeking to recover unpaid medical debts. Hospitals in Colorado, Texas, Virginia, Oklahoma, New York, Tennessee, Kansas, Maryland, and Wisconsin were all accused of being “too aggressive” by filing lawsuits to collect on unpaid debts. Many hospitals have stopped filing collection lawsuits and enforcing judgments as a result of the publicity.
UVA’s turn in the spotlight came back in 2019, when the Washington Post published an article that mentioned the provider had filed more than 36,000 lawsuits during a six-year period. The provider was also accused of having the “most restrictive eligibility guidelines for financial assistance to patients of any major hospital system in Virginia.”
A month after the article was published, UVA Health announced it was creating a billing and collection practices advisory council — which did not include any collection professionals on it.
Under the new practices, liens and judgments will be released for any patient who is at or below 400% of the federal poverty level. A patient that is part of a family of four and makes less than $106,000 annually will qualify to have his or her lien or judgment released, the provider said.
“We are committed to providing high-quality, compassionate care to all community members and these new policies and practices uphold our commitment,” said Douglas E. Lischke, UVA Health’s chief financial officer, in a statement.
Experts said they think this might be the first time that such a policy has been introduced at any healthcare provider in the country.
“This is very significant and a much-needed and overdue step,” said Erin Fuse Brown, a law professor at Georgia State University who studies hospital billing, in a published report. “I don’t know if I’ve heard of that [lien abolition] happening anywhere else.”