ProPublica and NPR recently reported on the trend of nonprofit hospitals garnishing the wages of low-income patients who are unable to pay their medical bills. One Senator, Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), recently began inquiring into the practice in an effort to stop it. In particular, Sen. Grassley sent a letter to a nonprofit hospital in Missouri who consistently employs the practice.
Under federal law, nonprofit, tax-exempt hospitals are supposed to provide care to patients, regardless of whether they can afford it or not. In his letter, Sen. Grassley asked the hospital about its practices regarding bill collection because there are allegations that the hospital has failed to treat low-income patients as it should under the law. In particular, the hospital has garnished the wages of 6,000 individuals who paid a total of $12 million from 2009-2013. In most cases, the patients would have qualified for financial assistance, but the hospital failed to inquire into income-level.
Moreover, the hospital blamed the patients for the entire scheme, saying patients were at fault for failing to make their income-status known to the hospital. Under the law, however, the hospitals have a duty to inquire into income status to determine whether a patient is eligible. While at this point, Sen. Grassley has no plans to institute new legislation regarding this issue, he hopes that an investigation into hospital practices will spur hospitals to act on their own. Nevertheless, he leaves open the possibility that legislation regulating nonprofit hospitals more strictly may be necessary in the future.
If you or a loved one has been charged for nonprofit hospital services despite qualifying for financial assistance or experienced any other injury in connection with hospital care, you may have a legal claim to compensation for your injuries. Call Paul M. da Costa, Esq. at Sarno da Costa D’Aniello Maceri LLC today at 973-274-5200.