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Hospitals' collection actions against patients are on the rise

An increasing number of Tennessee residents are finding themselves caught between unpaid medical bills and the prospect of bankruptcy. Recent studies indicate that hospitals are going to court to collect unpaid medical bills in rapidly increasing numbers. The hospitals say they are suing only ex-patients who have the financial means to pay the bills, but researchers disagree.

One of the biggest hospital chains to resort to litigation is Ballad Health, a company with clinics and hospitals in Virginia and Tennessee. Ballad filed more than 6,700 collection actions against former patients in 2018. Since 2009, Ballad hospitals have filed 44,000 lawsuits seeking to collect unpaid fees and expenses. In most such cases, the hospitals prevailed because the patients either failed to appear for the hearing or were unrepresented by a lawyer.

Hospitals cite rising deductibles and co-pays as the cause of patients' inability to pay. Patient and consumer advocates, on the other hand, say that collection lawsuits by hospitals and resulting wage garnishments only make the patients' situation worse. Many patients have been forced to turn to public assistance or take on extra credit card debt. Most of the patients do not deny owing the money, but they are almost universally unable to find the extra money to pay the deductibles and their other health care bills.

Hospital managers once made the assumption that a person with health insurance would be able to pay their medical bills. This assumption is no longer proving to be correct. Hospitals are unsure about how to handle what one manager called a "new bucket of patient debt."

For patients, one remedy is filing a https://www.rbankslawfirm.com/Bankruptcy/ petition. The automatic stay in the federal bankruptcy code will stop all collection actions that are pending on the date of filing, and the debtor and creditor health care givers may be able to negotiate a repayment agreement while the bankruptcy action is pending.

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