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(c) 2016 Jon L Gelman, All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

From the E.R. to the Courtroom: How Nonprofit Hospitals Are Seizing Patients’ Wages


 
Northwest Financial Services first sued Keith and Katie Herie when they couldn't afford the $14,000 bill for Katie's emergency appendectomy. Since 2006, the Heries have had almost $20,000 taken from their wages to repay medical bills and still owe at least $26,000, with interest mounting. (Steve Hebert for ProPublica)
This story was co-published with NPR and is shared from .propublica.org/

On the eastern edge of St. Joseph, Missouri, lies the small city's only hospital, a landmark of brick and glass. Music from a player piano greets visitors at the main entrance, and inside, the bright hallways seem endless. Long known as Heartland Regional Medical Center, the nonprofit hospital and its system of clinics recently rebranded. Now they're called Mosaic Life Care, because, their promotional materials say: "We offer much more than health care. We offer life care."

Two miles away, at the rear of a low-slung building is a key piece of Mosaic—Heartland's very own for-profit debt collection agency.

When patients receive care at Heartland and don't or can't pay, their bills often end up here at Northwest Financial Services. And if those patients don't meet Northwest's demands, their debts can make another, final stop: the Buchanan County Courthouse.

From 2009 through 2013, Northwest filed more than 11,000 lawsuits. When it secured a judgment, as it typically did, Northwest was entitled to seize a hefty portion of a debtor's paycheck. During those years, the company garnished the pay of about 6,000...
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