The largest public employer in Arkansas is being called out for dramatically increasing the number of collection lawsuits it has filed — potentially tied to its working with a collection agency — including suing some of its own employees, in yet another example of putting the focus of the problems associated with medical debt in the wrong part of the picture.
This time, it was CNN going after the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. UAMS has sued more than 8,000 patients since the start of 2019, according to the report, which is right around the time it began working with Mid-South Adjustment Company. Mid-South also provides patient communications and insurance verification services to UAMS, according to the report.
The report juxtaposes UAMS’s mission to serve the people of Arkansas and how it referred to all of its employees as heroes in a video that was released during the COVID-19 pandemic with the increase in lawsuits, painting the provider as bloodthirsty and overly aggressive in going after patients who have unpaid debts. But, as the chancellor of the university noted in the report, it does not file lawsuits against individuals who aren’t able to repay their debts and the money it has recovered has helped its finances at a time when it has faced budget shortfalls and layoffs. “We can’t fulfill our mission if we’re not getting paid for the work that we do,” he said in the report.
Consumer advocates called the measures taken by UAMS “draconian and cruel” because the amounts being recovered are not substantial. The report spotlights a number of employees, at all ends of the compensation spectrum, who were sued for not repaying their debts. After hearing about how many employees have been sued, the chancellor said the university had convened a working group to evaluate its billing and collection practices and make recommendations.
UAMS is just the latest in a long line of hospitals that have been called out in recent years for being too aggressive in their collection efforts. Hospitals in North Carolina, Colorado, Texas, Virginia, Oklahoma, New York, Tennessee, Kansas, Maryland, New Jersey, and Wisconsin 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.What each of those articles has in common, though, is none of them offer a solution to help hospitals continue to have enough money to operate while allowing patients not to pay their bills.