When Hospitals Sue Patients

This is a tough issue to write about. Are hospitals allowed to sue patients to get paid? These are big bills people are walking on and the hospitals want their cash. Wouldn’t any other business be allowed to do sue? If you get the WSJ then you can read the entire article here. Here are some highlights:

  • Nonprofit hospitals—which receive significant tax breaks because of their not-for-profit status—are more likely than for-profit hospitals to garnish the wages of patients, according to a study of Virginia hospitals published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The study examined hospital lawsuits that resulted in wage garnishment for unpaid bills.
  • In Virginia, where Mary Washington is based, nonprofit hospitals in 2017 filed 20,000 lawsuits against patients for unpaid debt, according to the study led by Dr. Marty Makary, a health-policy professor at Johns Hopkins University.
  • At Mary Washington, uninsured patients already receive an across-the-board discount of 30%, said Lisa Henry, a spokeswoman for Mary Washington Healthcare, the health system for the hospital and another one.

There are mores details in the article, about how nonprofits are basically bogus, but we have talked about that before in this blog. Here is my thoughts on the lawsuit matter. Yes, I believe that if you have a medical bill then you should pay it but with these conditions:

  • It can’t be because the insurance company denied the bill. F#ck them. The hospital needs to go after the insurers, in court, first. Let evil fight evil.
  • It has to be for the SAME amount as the hospitals would be getting paid by the insurers. The 30% discount mentioned above is bullshit. The insurers pay a 70% discount. The same should apply to the uninsured
  • These bills cannot be excessive from “out-of-network” docs used in emergency situations.

Okay, that is all I have for now. Anyone else have something to add? Would love to get a consensus on this.

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Douglas Farrago MD

Douglas Farrago MD is a full-time practicing family doc in Forest, Va. He started Forest Direct Primary Care where he takes no insurance and bills patients a monthly fee. He is board certified in the specialty of Family Practice. He is the inventor of a product called the Knee Saver which is currently in the Baseball Hall of Fame. The Knee Saver and its knock-offs are worn by many major league baseball catchers. He is also the inventor of the CryoHelmet used by athletes for head injuries as well as migraine sufferers. Dr. Farrago is the author of four books, two of which are the top two most popular DPC books. From 2001 – 2011, Dr. Farrago was the editor and creator of the Placebo Journal which ran for 10 full years. Described as the Mad Magazine for doctors, he and the Placebo Journal were featured in the Washington Post, US News and World Report, the AP, and the NY Times. Dr. Farrago is also the editor of the blog Authentic Medicine which was born out of concern about where the direction of healthcare is heading and the belief that the wrong people are in charge. This blog has been going daily for more than 15 years Article about Dr. Farrago in Doximity Email Dr. Farrago – [email protected] 

  3 comments for “When Hospitals Sue Patients

  1. Stevem64
    July 4, 2019 at 10:16 pm

    Bottom line:
    Sending patients to collections or taking them to court creates a ton of bad will and maximizes pain and suffering for all.
    Yet, the total collected is usually a tiny fraction of 1% of your total receipts.
    It is simply not worth it all and, in this case, it took the hospital about 24 hours of bad press to recognize this:

    https://www.fredericksburg.com/news/local/mary-washington-hospital-suspends-policy-of-suing-patients-following-american/article_526d34d5-e374-545f-8568-0c66ba0734e5.html

    Yes:! I scream it out: “DISCOUNT UNINSURED CARE THE WAY YOU DISCOUNT INSURED CARE!”

  2. Terry Nugebt
    July 4, 2019 at 8:13 pm

    Aggressive collections have been out of fashion since Yale-New Haven got burned in the front page of the WSJ for going after some poor guy’s house to get paid floor bad debt.

    Apparently adverse PR lost its
    deterrent sting. This latest press may reel it back in especially in light of the bipartisan heat regarding prices and the looming threat of a socialist coup in 2020.

  3. Frank Savoretti
    July 4, 2019 at 1:46 pm

    Quite right! You did not mention the fact reported in the same article that the AVERAGE hospital CEO pockets 3.1 MILLION DOLLARS every year. Plus benefits. Just like the average Doctor…? Are readers aware that there is a “non-profit” hospital system here in the Northeast that pays a dozen Vice-Presidents more than one million dollars yearly? Plus benefits. Just like the average Doctor? “Non-Profit?” “Yes! Because we pocket all the profits before year end! ie “Non-Profit?” = SCAM!

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