New York Health System No Longer Sues Consumers with Medical Debt 

By Consumers for Quality Care, on July 8, 2024

New York Health System No Longer Sues Consumers with Medical Debt 

Although many hospitals are engaging in predatory, anti-patient practices meant to pad their bottom line while enriching their executives, Rochester Regional Health in New York has instituted policies that put consumers first, according to reporting from KFF Health News.  

Rochester Regional refuses to engage in aggressive debt collection practices. They will not take consumers to court, garnish their wages, put liens on their homes, deny medical care, or report their debt to credit agencies. Though other nonprofit health systems argue that debt collection is necessary to stay afloat, Rochester Regional reports that their bottom line has not suffered since implementing these new policies. According to Rochester Regional’s COO Jennifer Eslinger, the health system has gained the trust of the community and the residents they serve. “We think and talk a lot and strategize a lot about where is the distrust in health care,” she said. “We have to remove that as a barrier to meaningful health care. We have to get the trust with the populations that we serve so that they can get the care that they need.” 

In talking with consumers, Rochester Regional found that patients often face circumstances beyond their control that make it difficult for them to pay for medical treatment. Many consumers do not understand how their health insurance works, or what treatments are covered. Rochester Regional not only helps residents enroll in health insurance plans that meet their needs, but they also make applying for financial assistance less burdensome.  

Elisabeth Benjamin, a Vice President at the Community Service Society of New York, applauds Rochester Regional for no longer engaging in predatory debt collection practices and gaining the trust of residents. “The value is to promote health, to care about a population, to promote health equity,” Benjamin said. “Suing people for medical debt or engaging in extraordinary collection actions is really anathema to all those values.” 

CQC applauds Rochester Regional, a health system that’s working to be part of the solution to America’s medical-debt crisis. CQC urges hospitals to better serve their communities and to deliver care for patients when they need it most.