CNN report: CHS sued nearly 19,000 patients for unpaid medical bills since start of pandemic

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A new CNN investigation found that Community Health Systems has sued nearly 19,000 patients over unpaid medical bills since the start of the pandemic last year. (Getty/designer491)

Community Health Systems filed at least 19,000 lawsuits against patients for allegedly unpaid medical bills since March of last year, a new investigation from CNN reported.

The investigation, released Tuesday, comes as some hospital systems have cut down on similar types of lawsuits during the pandemic, which has caused major job losses, CNN reported.

The network found the court filings across 16 states showed that most of the patients sued by the chain for allegedly unpaid medical bills did not hire a lawyer nor fight the lawsuits.

This is the latest report of CHS continuing to sue patients for unpaid bills. An August 2020 report in Axios found that “almost all of roughly two dozen hospitals” in three states sued patients since the start of the pandemic last year.

CHS told Fierce Healthcare that it doesn’t start litigation against “any patient we know lost his or her job because of the pandemic. The challenge often is that patients do not respond to the hospital’s attempts to talk to them about their bills, so we do not know what impact, if any, the pandemic has had on a patients’ ability to pay for medical care.”

The system also created a new policy earlier this year that does not sue anyone that earns less than 200% of the federal poverty level.

CHS added that it takes legal action on a “small fraction of the many patient service encounters through inpatient, emergency room, outpatient services and physician practice visits each year.”

The investigation comes as hospitals have received more scrutiny over their patient collection practices. The University of Virginia Health System, for instance, sued thousands of patients over unpaid medical bills and announced earlier this year that it will cancel a backlog of court judgments and liens stemming from those judgments, according to a report from Kaiser Health News.