N.Y. Hospitals Called Out for Filing Liens On Unpaid Debts

A number of hospitals in New York state are being called out for filing liens on the homes of patients with unpaid medical debts, pointing out that the facilities collected $442 million to help them support patient financial assistance and calling the process an “extreme collection practice.”

The report was published by Community Service Society and examined liens that were placed by hospitals in 2018 and 2018. It found that 56 out of the 189 hospitals across the state — concentrated mostly in areas outside of New York City — placed liens on 4,880 homes, seeking an average of $1,900. That works out to about $9.3 million.

Bills have been introduced in the New York legislature that would prohibit nonprofit hospitals in New York from filing liens on the homes of patients who have unpaid medical debts. The bills would also ban wage garnishment for medical liens as well.

“New Yorkers who are struggling with a health crisis have enough to worry about without having to fear that the hospital they’ve turned to for help might ruin their financial and housing security,” said State Sen. Liz Krueger, in a statement. “Debt collection practices like these are positively medieval, and they have no place in our modern healthcare system.”

One of the hospitals that has placed liens placed the blame on the collection agency it uses, and said that agency will no longer take that step.

Hospitals in ColoradoTexasVirginiaOklahomaNew YorkTennesseeKansasMaryland, and Wisconsin — as well as nationwide hospital networks — have 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. Earlier this year, UVA Hospital in Virginia announced it was wiping out many of its outstanding liens and judgments dating back to the 1990s, a move that was expected to impact tens of thousands of families.

In fact, the bad publicity surrounding the processes through which hospitals attempt to collect unpaid debts has led to a decrease in the number of lawsuits filed against individuals, according to a recently released study.

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