Hospital sues patients for nominal amounts

Hospitals are dunning and even suing patients for relatively nominal amounts, even if they are likely to qualify for charity care programs, reports Kaiser Health News.

Mount Carmel Health System in Ohio referred Lori Duff to a collections agency for an $1,800 bill related to prenatal services, even though her $25,000 annual income from managing an auto parts store likely made her eligible for charity care, according to the article. Eventually, the hospital filed suit against Duff--one of about 1,600 people it has sued between 2009 and 2011, most of whom were former patients.

"It's hard to make bills meet, and then when a doctor bill gets thrown in, you try to work it in as best you can," Duff told KHN. "But when people start harassing you and they start calling on a daily basis, or every other day demanding money you don't have, I mean, it's hard."

Mount Carmel spends just under 1.9 percent of its revenues on charity care, according to the article, which noted that the Legal Aid Society of Columbus handles large numbers of debt cases involving its patients.

The revelations involving Mount Carmel come on top of a recent report from the Charlotte Observer that Carolinas HealthCare System in North Carolina sued more than 12,000 patients between 2005 and 2010. Altogether, more than 40,000 patients were sued by hospitals in the Tar Heel State during that time.

To learn more:
- read the Kaiser Health News article
- here's the Observer article