Consumers in Kansas County Devastated by Lawsuits Over Medical Debt 

By Consumers for Quality Care, on June 12, 2024

Consumers in Kansas County Devastated by Lawsuits Over Medical Debt 

A small hospital in rural Kansas ramped up its filing of debt-collection lawsuits against the residents of a 9,000-person county last year, according to The Wall Street Journal.  

Toward the end of the year, Pratt Regional Medical sued some 400 consumers that owed medical debt. The center was responsible for nearly every civil case heard in the county court last September. In a rural county where residents tend to be older and uninsured, Pratt Regional was successful in getting the court to garnish the wages of more than 150 people.  

Although nonprofit hospitals are required to administer charity care to low-income consumers, many patients report not knowing what financial assistance programs are available or how to apply. This was the case for Cynthia Mehlhorn, who was sued for more than $5,600 last year for her and her son’s care. Mehlhorn is on disability, unable to work, and is barely getting by, but she must pay $20 a month to the hospital for a bill that now includes more than $2,300 in interest. In 2022, hospital records show that Pratt Regional spent just 0.2 percent of its total expenses on charity care, less than what it spent filing lawsuits against patients with medical debt.  

CQC urges providers and lawmakers across the nation to put an end to the use of predatory hospital debt-collection practices. Likewise, CQC urges nonprofit and public hospitals to uphold their end of the bargain and better serve their communities not only by providing charity care to those who need it but also by being more transparent with consumers about their potential eligibility for charity care.