Patients prosecuted during Covid-19 by hospitals | Queenswide
The Coalition for Affordable Hospitals, a group of unions who have come together to speak out against the exorbitant costs of medical services, on November 16 released an updated report from the Community Service Society of New York calling on nonprofit hospitals that guaranteed privileges against patients. home from March to November 2020 for unpaid medical bills.
Elisabeth Benjamin and Amanda Dunker of the Community Service Society, a nonprofit advocacy group that uses research to fight poverty, wrote the report “Discharged into Debt: A Pandemic Update”.
The Coalition for Affordable Hospitals believes the report could further strengthen support for health equity and accessibility legislation, which would require health insurance and maintenance organizations to make their contracts transparent and make all of their provisions easily accessible to its customers. The aim is to lower hospital prices by creating more competition between health providers, according to the bill.
“The revelation that New York hospitals have deposited thousands of liens on the homes of patients who were behind on their medical bills, even after receiving millions in funds from the State’s Indigent Care Pool,” which is supposed to cover the care of those who cannot afford it is worrying, but unfortunately not surprising, ”the Coalition said in a statement. “The cost of care in the most expensive private hospital systems has increased dramatically over the years, forcing patients to make the horrific choice of risking financial hardship – even bankruptcy – or forgoing potentially life-saving treatments. “
In those seven months, 55 hospitals sued nearly 4,000 patients for medical debt despite receiving more than $ 442 million in public funds from the Indigent Care Pool, a program that contributes to the cost of care for people. low-income, according to ny.gov.
One of the worst offenders, according to the Coalition, is Northwell Health, which has hospitals and medical centers throughout the city and on Long Island, including New Hyde Park, Forest Hills and Flushing. Northwell, the state’s largest hospital system, has sued 2,500 patients for unpaid medical bills during the height of the coronavirus pandemic, including frontline workers who contracted Covid-19.
Northwell announced in January that he would end the practice during the pandemic and quash all legal claims filed in 2020 after the lawsuits were exposed in a New York Times report on January 5.
The healthcare giant found the CSS report misleading and inaccurate.
“Northwell Health is committed to our mission of providing high quality, affordable health care to the communities we serve,” a spokesperson said in a statement to the Queens Chronicle via email. “We provide care to everyone, regardless of their ability to pay. When patients can afford to pay their medical bills but choose not to, their actions jeopardize our ability to provide high quality care to our community and threaten our promise to provide financial assistance to those who cannot. not afford care. “
A recent example includes a person who had a home valued at over $ 1 million and an income of over $ 600,000 who refused to pay a $ 1,500 bill despite multiple demands for payment and offers of financial assistance. , according to Northwell.
“To the average reader, the report gives the impression that hospitals are actively using hospital privileges to collect money from patients who are unable to pay. Northwell has never forced and will never force the sale of anyone’s property. In rare instances, we may refer patients with a strong and clear ability to pay unpaid medical bills, but fail to respond to numerous attempts to resolve their outstanding balance to a New York State regulated debt collection process. to guarantee payment.
The process may result in a court judgment which may include a lien on an individual’s property. The lien created by judgment sits passively, with no action taken until the property is at some point sold and all creditors with judgments are paid.
The health care provider has a financial assistance program, which provides services at a reduced cost – based on financial need – to those who are uninsured, underinsured, ineligible for government programs or other health coverage. third parties, or otherwise unable to pay for emergency or other medically necessary care.
“In 2020, this program provided over $ 250 million in charitable care at cost, over 40,000 interest-free payment plans and helped over 20,000 uninsured patients qualify for insurance,” said Northwell said.
The healthcare provider also pointed out that it is no longer associated, has never owned or performed billing or patient collection activities with Crouse Health Hospital, a clinical affiliate listed in the CSS report.
The CSS report said that despite the hospitals’ charitable status, some were charging a 9% commercial interest rate on outstanding medical debt, which is permitted under New Delhi’s debt collection laws. York.
The CSS report states that 10 other states and jurisdictions – Arkansas, Florida, Iowa, Kansas, Maryland, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Texas, Puerto Rico and Washington, DC – have homestead exemptions that protect all or part of the principal residence of a debtor against privileges. Louisiana, West Virginia, and Ohio protect patients from creditors or foreclosure if they suffer from catastrophic or terminal illness or injury.
The Empire State’s Homestead Exemption Act only protects a dollar value of $ 75,000 to $ 150,000 depending on the region.
The median trial was $ 1,900, according to the report. Also, he added, few patients defended themselves in court because they didn’t even know they were being sued and the few who did did not have a lawyer. Low-paid workers in the food, retail and health sectors were most often prosecuted.
When hospitals were successful, they often demanded that legal and legal fees be paid by the debtor as well as the 9% in addition to the statutory judgment, which resulted in wage garnishments for them. patients.
“This critical report sheds light on the challenges New Yorkers face with rising medical debt, including liens on their homes and wage garnishment,” State Senator James said Sanders Jr. (D-South Ozone Park). “I am a serious co-sponsor of S.6522 … a bill that would prohibit the placement of a lien on a person’s primary residence and the garnishment of wages for medical debt judgments.”
State Senator Gustavo Rivera (D-Bronx) is the main sponsor of the bill, which has the support of seven other senators. Assembly member Richard Gottfried (D-New York) is the main sponsor of the Assembly, where he has the support of 13 other Assembly members, including Catalina Cruz (D-Corona), Andrew Hevesi (D -Forest Hills) and Edward Braunstein (D-Bayside).