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In the massive sale of hospitals, a huge chain of companies is still suing patients: Shot

Vanderbilt University Medical Center purchased a hospital from Community Health Systems in Lebanon, Tennessee in 2019, but the company is suing a former patient for unpaid medical costs.

Break Farmer / WPLN


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Break Farmer / WPLN

Vanderbilt University Medical Center purchased a hospital from Community Health Systems in Lebanon, Tennessee in 2019, but the company is suing a former patient for unpaid medical costs.

Break Farmer / WPLN

Tennova Healthcare-Lebanon no longer exists as a hospital. However, he still sued Hope Kantwell.

Earlier this year, a knock came at the door of an apartment in East Nashville, Cantwell. She says she hasn’t been vaccinated yet and hasn’t actually answered the door to strangers. So she didn’t.

However, several more attempts were made during the week that followed. Eventually she masked and opened. A legal assistant filed a proceeding against her. She was summoned to appear in court.

“I couldn’t believe someone-someone? A company? A company? -Was doing this during a pandemic,” says Cantwell.

It started from the hospital visit in May 2019.

Cantwell was hospitalized for a short stay at the then-owned Tennova Healthcare-Lebanon facility of Community Health Systems, a publicly traded company headquartered in Franklin, Tennessee. ..

Almost a year later, she was in a financial position to start cutting the bill. She paid online but couldn’t find the hospital or its payment portal.

Cantwell googled a bit and noticed Purchased by Vanderbilt University Medical Center A 245-bed facility during her stay.It is called Vanderbilt Wilson County Hospital is now..

Then a pandemic occurred. She was fired from work for three months. And soon the letter arrived. A law firm representing the former hospital owner demanded payment and threatened to take her to court. She couldn’t come up with all the cash, so she didn’t know what to do. She was on standby until she knocked on the door from her legal assistant.

Pandemic push

According to a WPLN News study, Tennova Lebanon Hospital has sued more than 1,000 patients, including Hope Cantwell, in multiple counties over the past two years after signing a sale agreement. And hundreds of those proceedings were filed during the pandemic. The company has in the meantime Recession From taking patients to court over unpaid medical debt.Even in New York Banned training.

Community Health Systems The end of corporate downsizing This reduced the company from over 200 hospitals to 84. The sale allowed CHS to stabilize the company after incurring huge debt during a period of rapid growth, which temporarily acquired more hospitals than any other chain in the country.

But now many of these institutions are like zombie hospitals. Even after being sold to a new owner who does not sue for medical expenses, it is still just a legal entity that takes patients to court.

When her subpoena arrived, a panic struck Cantwell.

“My heart immediately went to pay for the stimulus,” she says. “At least now there is a way to handle this.”

When her last pandemic stimulus fell into her bank account, Kantwell said she sent her directly to the company that sued her, even though she said she felt like a victim of fraud. increase. She lost her income during the pandemic and wondered if she really borrowed all the money or was eligible for financial assistance.

But proceedings are a rich game. She couldn’t justify trying to find a lawyer or fighting a large publicly traded company that chased her for $ 2,700.

“I don’t have the resources and emotional and mental abilities to handle more than roll over and hand over the amount they would be happy with,” she says.

CHS debt problem

According to court records, Community Health Systems stepped up its proceedings against patients in 2015, while its share price plummeted due to concerns over the company’s huge debt.

In addition to hospital sales, CHS also actively tracked patients.And CHS did not allow the company to delay its plans received Over $ 700 million of unique COVID bailouts from the federal government.

A spokesperson for HCA, the country’s largest commercial hospital chain, said hospitals will not sue patients for unpaid medical debt, such as during a pandemic.Some companies are based in Nashville Came back All of that COVID relief fund.

CHS found on CNN survey Sue at least 19,000 patients The number is probably underestimated, given the proceedings filed on behalf of the previous hospital during the pandemic.

Two other CHS hospitals in Tennessee, like Lebanon, Tennessee, continued to take patients to court. After selling to Vanderbilt Recently. CHS holds its debt in a deal with Vanderbilt and continues to try to track patients who are renting it.

John Hauser, a spokesman for the Vanderbilt University Medical Center, said Vanderbilt is not urging patients to recover their medical debt.

“Community Health Systems and its subsidiary Tennova Healthcare are private companies not owned or operated by Vanderbilt University Medical Center,” Hauser said in a statement. “Therefore, VUMC is not involved in these proceedings.”

VUMC operates a CHS-owned hospital in Clarksville and continues to sue patients, but Howser states that CHS remains the dominant interest.

“The problem is that these aren’t the rich people who don’t want to pay their bills,” says Christie Walsh, a nurse practitioner who directs clinical research at Johns Hopkins University.Her team is focused At the hospital that sues the patient Apply pressure to stop aggressively. “I’ve been standing on the ground at the courthouse. These are people who don’t have the money to pay for it.”

In a family in Wilson County, Tennessee, both husband and wife were sued by the Lebanon Hospital, Tennessee. He works in a closed distribution center for several months during COVID. She took care of the foster child, delivered the meal at DoorDash, and told WPLN News that they were too busy to go to court.

The problem is that what doesn’t show up in court to face debt can allow a company to cut someone’s salary. It also destroys their financial credibility and stress can lead to physical health problems.

“It threatens public trust”

Walsh team investigated The most litigated hospital in Texas between 2018 and 2020. The top five were all affiliated with CHS. And most of the proceedings were filed by the South Texas Regional Medical Center, which was sold to HCA in 2017. However, CHS continued to sue the ex-patient.

Dr. Marty Makary is a Johns Hopkins surgeon who “written a book about medical billing.”Price we pay“He says most hospitals have changed tactics because suing patients doesn’t make them huge money after lawyers and legal costs, and it hurt their brand, but he CHS Says he did not express such concerns.

“Community Health Systems stands out as a proactive institution engaged in uniform and highly aggressive predatory billing across the country in all surveys of hospital pricing and billing practices.

Even if CHS is willing to hurt its reputation, McCulley says patients think about the health system as a whole. And they think twice the next time they need to go to the doctor.

“It threatens public confidence in our community of medical institutions, and medical institutions are likely to outperform those games,” he says.

In a statement to WPLN News, a CHS spokesman said the company used COVID relief to pay for pandemics and make up for lost income. As of January, the company decided to bring patients to court only if they earned at least twice the federal poverty level, or about $ 52,000 a year for a family of four. ..

“We are continually evaluating changes in collection methods to support patients struggling to pay hospital bills,” spokesman Rebecca Pitt said in an email. increase.

Policy changes are intended to be retroactive. CHS will withdraw the proceedings by anyone qualified, Pitt said. Patients borrowing money from CHS and former CHS hospitals are informed of the new policy in legal response and can call 1-800-755-5152 to start the process, she said. Says.

In the massive sale of hospitals, a huge chain of companies is still suing patients: Shot

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