- Heartland Regional Medical Center sued low income patients for their medical bills
- The hospital pardoned the debt in light of a new financial assistance policy
- Many patients were unaware the policy even existed
Poor People were sued for inability to pay bills by an US non-profit hospital. When came to light, forgave bills
An US non-profit hospital, Mosaic forgave bills and stopped suing poor people, when came to light
Heartland Regional Medical Center nonprofit hospital in St. Joseph, Missouri in United States. sued low income patients because they were not paying hospital bills. In light of these findings, Senator Charles Grassley stated, “Let me be clear: Nonprofit hospitals should not be in the business of aggressively suing their patients. In essence, because of the favorable tax treatment these hospitals receive, they have a duty to help our nation’s most vulnerable.”
A republican from Iowa, he made it clear that it was unacceptable that this issue had to be brought to the attention of not only congress but the press. He said that it should not have come to this, and the hospital should have upheld its mission and helped those in need.
It was due to an investigation done by NPR and ProPublica that led to uncovering the lawsuits Heartland Regional Medical Center, now known as Mosaic Life Care, was issuing. In fact, to NPR and ProPublica’s surprise, Mosaic was not the only nonprofit hospital that was quietly suing patients.
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Mosaic and other nonprofit hospitals such as, Deaconess Hospital in Evansville, Indiana, have started to revisit their financial assistance policies. Mosaic used to refuse medical attention to those that they had sued. Now, under their new policy which came about in 2015, the patients enter into a medical debt grace period. With this policy, even the patients who owe the hospital money can receive medical attention.
This new policy relieved 3,342 people of their debt. The total amounted to $17 million being pardoned. That is a substantial amount of money that the money will never receive. Interestingly enough, they are still trying to obtain some sort of payment from patients who owe them. Keith Herie, a patient, said that he still owed the hospital over $26,000. After looking at his income, Mosaic deemed his income too high to allow his debts to be pardoned. The patient settled on paying $8,300 to Mosaic. That was after the fact that he had already paid $20,000 to the hospital prior to the official changes in Mosaic’s policy.
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In another interesting discovery ProPublica reached out to Keith Berry, a man who is on disability. He had not heard that Mosaic had a new debt forgiveness policy. When he contacted the hospital, they simply stated that he was too old and did not qualify. The policy does have specific steps. The debt period is held from October 1, thru December 31. During these days, patients, who having outstanding debt, must apply to be considered eligible to receive the benefits of this policy.
The CEO of the hospital said that although the hospital has done everything medically right for their patients, they are learning to do the same when it comes to finances. It is not just Mosaic and Deaconess that have failed the patients financially. Under half of 1,800 hospitals studied had failed to notify patients of their financial assistance policy prior to billing them.
Abigail Andrea is an intern at NewsGram. Twitter @abby_kono
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