By Consumers For Quality Care, on September 4, 2020
According to a new Axios review of hospitals in Florida, Texas, and Arizona, hospitals are resuming their practice of suing patients over unpaid bills after a brief pause earlier this year.
These hospitals have filed dozens — sometimes hundreds — of cases per county between Jan. 1 and Aug. 14 of this year, according to Axios’ review of court records in the counties that make them available online.
Many hospitals had paused the practice earlier this year during the spring, but then resumed in the summer when the three states became the epicenters of the pandemic in the United States. Often, the Americans least able to pay for their medical bills are also those most vulnerable to suffering a serious illness from the coronavirus.
The Axios review found lawsuits that ranged from $1,000 to $125,999.53 against patients.
In Arizona, Western Arizona Regional Medical Center filed a lawsuit against Blair Smiley, a funeral home worker whose husband is a disabled veteran. Smiley suspects the lawsuit involves two times in the last year when Smiley had to take her uninsured 10-year-old daughter to the emergency room. Her daughter now uses a feeding tube.
Due to the pandemic, Smiley’s working hours have been reduced, and she doesn’t make enough money to pay her medical bills.
In Texas, Lake Granbury Medical Center sued patient Richard Piper for $35,000 after a five-day hospital stay. Piper is uninsured and tried to leave, but was not allowed. When he was discharged, he faced a huge bill.
He added that he was in the hospital for 4 or 5 days. “When I went to the hospital I told them I had no insurance and I could not afford it, every day I asked to leave and was told no…When I was discharged, I asked for some kind of relief to help pay this[,] and was not given an option.”
These stories show that the chronic issues in the health care system have not gone away during the pandemic, and they may only be worse in the future.