Poor patients sue hospital district for charging copays

One of the nation's largest urban hospital districts has been sued for withholding care from poor patients, reported The Houston Chronicle.

The lawsuit, filed by Lone Star Legal Aid, alleged that the Harris County Hospital District in Houston systematically charged poor patients copayments to see physicians and receive prescriptions before evaluating their ability to pay, according to the article.

The care was often provided at clinics operated by the hospital district, KUHF-FM reported.

"We get complaints and after a certain number of them, we realize there's a pattern," Lone Star Legal Aid spokesman Lewis Kinard told the Chronicle. He added that the suit is seeking a permanent injunction against the practice.

In addition to requesting copays, the district's hospital and clinics often had signs suggesting that no care would be provided if patients can't pay, according to KUHF-FM.

In December, the district's board of directors changed its criteria for providing financial assistance, which required patients to not only pay but also actively assist in qualifying themselves for safety-net or other programs, the Chronicle noted.

For more:
- read the Houston Chronicle article
- read the KUHF article