Big New York hospitals dominate list of hospitals that sue a lot
Among large hospitals that sue their patients, those in one state stand out: New York.
What they're saying: “New York was the most aggressive region in the country in predatory billing,” said Marty Makary, a Johns Hopkins professor and lead researcher on a new study detailing the billing practices of the 100 largest hospitals in the U.S.
Zoom in: In February 2018, Stephen Swett was out of Suboxone — a medication used to treat opioid addiction — and having withdrawal symptoms. They got so bad that he went to the emergency room at Westchester Medical Center, seeking help.
- Swett — a 44-year old truck driver who was uninsured at the time — says he then sat on a gurney until he was discharged. Then, in June of last year, the hospital filed a court summons, the beginning of its attempt to collect the $2,539.43 it said Swett owed for his trip.
- Swett didn’t argue the facts of the case, and ultimately agreed to a payment plan with the hospital. He’ll pay around $110 a month for two years, he said. He currently makes $20 an hour.
- “I went there, and it was my responsibility for going there. But at the same time — you don’t even take my temperature, you don’t do anything, you just basically let me sit, and then you stick me with a bill and take me to court,” Swett said. “That’s what I didn’t feel was right.”
By the numbers: Six of the 26 hospitals that JHU researchers found sued their patients were in New York.
- Three of the 6 hospitals with the most court actions were in the state, and it’s also home to the hospital that sought the largest amount of money: Westchester, which sued patients for a total of $24,020,283.
Between the lines: JHU researchers also looked at the overall billing practices of New York’s 261 hospitals.
- They found that 51 — or 20% — filed more than 18,000 lawsuits against patients between January 2018 and Dec. 15, 2020.
- All but three of these hospitals were not-for-profit, and 42 of them filed lawsuits in 2020 even though many Americans were experiencing exceptional pandemic-related financial crises.
What they’re saying: Swett doesn’t have an issue, in general, with hospitals suing their patients.
- “For the right reasons — how else would the hospitals collect unpaid bills?” he said. “But if things are looked at on a case-by-case basis like mine, how do you come after somebody who you did not help whatsoever?”
Neither Westchester nor the Greater New York Hospital Association responded to requests for comment.