Charity Care Law Violations

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Collections Agency Sued for Alleged Violations

[By Dr. David Edward Marcinko; MBA, CMP™]

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According to Ann Zieger of Fierce HealthFinance on January 7, 2009, a Washington state healthcare collection agency is being sued by a law firm for allegedly violating state charity care laws. This is a case that could become a class action if the firm gets its way.

The Case Argument

The case hinges on a Washington measure that, among other things, defines individuals and families with annual incomes below 100 percent of the federal poverty level as officially eligible for hospital charity care with no charges.

The Law Firm

Seattle-based Phillips Law Group has filed a lawsuit claiming that healthcare collection firm Audit & Adjustment Company has been misleading patients by telling them they owe the full charges on hospital billing statements.

The Argument

The suit argues that the collections firm is required to tell patients that they might potentially be entitled to charity care that would cut or eliminate their hospital debts. It also alleges that this behavior violates not only Washington’s charity care law, but also the Consumer Protection Act [CPA] and the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act [FDCPA].

The Remedy

The attorneys seeks to stop the agency from attempting to collect from charity care-eligible patients, as well as to establish procedures to allow patients to qualify for charity care, and let patients from which it has collected in the past four years become eligible for reductions in their debt.

Related Cases

In an unrelated matter, a Missouri hospital based in St. Joseph, owned by Heartland Health, Inc has been sued over allegations that it too allowed its captive collections agency to collect without letting patient-debtors know the agency was owned by the same company as the hospital. Kansas City Attorney Derek Potts filed suit against the hospital, Heartland Regional Medical Center, on behalf of three clients, and is asking the court for class action status. The collection agency, Northwest Financial Services, is owned by Midwestern Health Management, which is also owned by Heartland. 

And, here in Atlanta, charitable entity Grady Memorial Hospital, the region’s only a Level I trauma center, just received a $200 million grant from a private foundation with ties to Coca-Cola. It was the largest gift on record to a single public hospital, according to the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University. Grady has been struggling financially for some time, now.

Assessment

Considering the financial mismanagement and extreme revenue seeking tactics of some not-for-profit hospitals today – much like Mrs. Jellyby the misguided do-gooder in Charles Dickens’s “Bleak House” – some hospitals practice a form of “telescopic philanthropy” [first termed by Richard Oastler; in 1727]. As you may recall, Jellby neglected her chaotic family to devote time to improving conditions in distant Borrioboola-Gha, Africa. Conclusion

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One Response

  1. Hospitals rethink charity care

    As more Americans gain insurance under the federal health law, hospitals are rethinking their charity programs, with some scaling back help for those who could have signed up for coverage but didn’t.

    http://www.healthcarefinancenews.com/news/hospitals-rethink-charity-care?topic=05

    Morris

    Like

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