Times have not been good for hospitals in the U.S. Large numbers of Americans do not have health insurance, but they get sick and injured just the same, which causes them to amass a lot of medical debt. When they get sick again they often have no choice but to use their credit cards or accept emergency care. As a result, according to the New York Times, hospitals have large, unpaid accounts receivables. In 2010, 5,000 community hospitals gave out $39.3 billion in uncompensated health care, which was 16 percent higher than in 2007. To deal with this, hospitals now hire debt collection agents to ensure that hospitals are paid, including for services given earlier. Here are nine examples of things debt collector hospital employees do to ensure the hospital is paid.
(1) Hospitals have debt collectors stand at the front of emergency rooms and demand payment. Often debt collectors will discourage people from taking emergency care entirely if they can’t afford it, or they will demand that patients pay for their previous hospital visits before entering the emergency room.
(2) The debt collectors use scripts—just like when they call debtors on the phone—to ask for payment, such as telling patients that they can retrieve their checkbooks from their cars to pay for previous visits.
(3) Some companies give collectors access to confidential patient information, which is in violation of federal law, to help them enforce payment.
(4) Most of the time hospitals turn to debt collectors after the care has been provided, but more recently, they’ve started turning over the management of front-end stations (appointment scheduling, patient registration) to debt collection companies to monitor patient payment.
(5) Collectors often pressure employees to collect payment from as many patients as possible, even going so far as to reward them with gift cards for good performance.
(6) Debt collectors even focus on extracting payments from women checking into obstetrics wards for labor and delivery.
(7) Collection efforts become so aggressive that sometimes other hospital staff members claim it interferes with their provision of health care. The Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act requires hospitals to provide emergency health care without regard to citizenship, immigration status, or ability to pay.
(8) Collection companies begin tracking patients who have not paid in “stop lists.”
(9) Collection companies sometimes do not identify themselves as debt collectors, often in violation of state law.
Medical debt is a serious problem facing Americans, but hospital debt collectors often break the law when attempting to collect on debts, such as patient privacy laws and debt collection practice laws. If you had to take on debt to pay for medical care, and it’s a burden to you, a Las Vegas bankruptcy lawyer can help you with your debt situation so hopefully you can avoid dealing with debt collectors in person.
For more questions about bankruptcy in Las Vegas, please feel free to contact an experienced Haines & Krieger Las Vegas bankruptcy attorney for a free initial consultation. Call us at 702-880-5554 to set up your free consultation.