Report: Mayo sued over 900 patients between 2018 and mid-2020 for unpaid medical bills
The report, released last week by researchers at the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University and the Axios news site, found that during the Mayo Clinic Hospital-St. Marys Campus has filed a lawsuit against 904 people suing for a total of $ 4 million in unpaid bills.
These actions led Mayo to be listed in the publication of just 10 hospitals responsible for 97% of all U.S. lawsuits against patients in the analysis, according to Michelle McGhee, a reporter at Axios.
“We’ve seen this across the country, that about a quarter of all hospitals are suing patients,” said Christi Walsh, clinical director of research at Johns Hopkins for healthcare and policy research. “… It was no surprise that we found Mayo on this list. Lots of good academic medical centers were on these lists.”
“But it’s really important that these centers that get money from the government to provide charitable care, and that are supposed to be a refuge for the poor and the sick, that we hold them all accountable. We just want them to people stop suing patients. “
Christi Walsh, CNP, Clinical Director of Research at Johns Hopkins University. Photo submitted.
The study, which Walsh says is currently under review by a medical journal, selected the top 100 hospitals in the country based on revenues as determined by the American Hospital Directory, a list of more than 7,000 hospitals. . “So Mayo was selected by chance,” she said. “We hadn’t looked specifically at Mayo before.”
The project is the third such effort in a research group led by Johns Hopkins surgeon, health care reform advocate and Medpage Today editor Dr. Marty Markary.
In a 2019 article published in the Journal of The American Medical Association, the group has released a similar investigation limited to lawsuits against patients in Virginia. In 2020, the group published a study of lawsuits against patients in Texas.
The current document is the group’s first attempt to address the issue nationwide, a logistical challenge given the country’s decentralized court system for prosecuting unpaid bills.
He approached the business over a three-year period, Walsh said, using a community network of more than 20 external participants who searched county and state court records in areas supporting an ongoing hospital. ‘exam.
The project also developed special software that has scratched the internet for relevant legal actions.
“I’m invigorated by a millennial research team,” Makary said of the work in a recent interview on the Plenary Session podcast. “If you know anything about millennials, social justice is a generational value. They want to be a part of something bigger. So, as we found out (these lawsuits), my students were like: “Marty, we want to go to the courthouse and see how many of these tapes there are.”
The doctor will sue you now
This is the second critical look in recent months at Mayo’s patient lawsuits, the first being a lengthy investigation published last summer in the LaCrosse Independent.
This article reported that Mayo Clinic Health System-Franciscan Healthcare in 2018 and 2019 brought 96 patients to courts in LaCrosse County, Wisconsin, claiming $ 770,000 in unpaid bills and seizing the salaries of seven of its employees.
“In many cases brought to court, Mayo has been given permission to garnish wages, sometimes from people with dual jobs,” the article said, adding that Mayo had garnished the wages of Kwik Trip employees, Sam’s Club and local school districts.
“What kind of culture do you foster in the workspace that your own work pursues?” Walsh asked. “It is not fair, and it is not what the people who provide health care would like health care to be. It is simply wrong for so many reasons.”
“Legal collection action against a patient is a last resort that is used in rare situations after other measures have failed to help patients resolve payment issues,” said Mayo Clinic spokesperson. , Jay Furst, in a statement responding to both articles.
Furst said the clinic “does not agree with many of the findings of the unpublished study cited in the Axios article,” adding that a lack of methodological transparency for the reporting made the results “difficult. to evaluate “.
Furst also pointed to the clinic’s “robust financial aid programs” in place for patients who lack the capacity to pay for care.
“We work with patients to create reasonable and extensive payment plans when needed, and we often provide financial assistance if a patient is unable to pay their bill,” Furst wrote.
“Mayo only pursues legal actions involving patients who have the capacity to pay and deny or ignore payment requests,” he said. “We will consider charitable care and financial assistance at any point in the fundraising process.”
Johns Hopkins’ research was not entirely critical of the Mayo Clinic. When it comes to security measures, billing quality, and not marking excessive fees above the cost of services, the report rated Mayo higher than most hospitals in its analysis.
But it hit the clinic hard in giving back, ranking Mayo 1 on a scale of 5 “on the amount spent on charitable care and other community health investments as a share of total spending.”
He also ranked Mayo near the bottom for the report’s central topic of interest – aggressively pursuing unpaid bills through the courts despite a charge as a nonprofit for treating hardship balances as charity.
After reviewing “hospital lawsuits, salary garnishments, and personal property liens against patients for unpaid medical bills,” for its “Predatory Billing” rating, the Mayo Clinic was one of eight. hospitals in the analysis to receive a D score.
Walsh said the effort is aimed at pushing hospitals to change the practices that are sometimes carried out to seek a fraction of hospital outcomes, while being very damaging to those of patients.
“The people who provide the services, the doctors, the nurses, the people who bill, would much prefer their patients not to go bankrupt,” she said. “Then they skip the care and don’t foot the bill anyway. So I don’t see any benefit.”
“Our study in Texas showed that this was 0.01% of all the income they were suing patients (to recoup). They don’t need that money to keep the lights on. But guess what, they Take it out of people’s mouths and bankrupt them. It ruins their lives. “