Jun 14, 2021 - Health

Some hospitals turn to liens instead of lawsuits

Total judgments sought from patients by the top 100 hospitals in the U.S.
Data: JHU; Chart: Will Chase/Axios

Froedtert Hospital in Milwaukee has taken plenty of court actions in pursuit of getting paid for medical services provided. But in the last year, those efforts have taken the form of hospital liens.

Why it matters: Froedtert offers a look at the different legal avenues large hospital systems use to collects on patient debt.

By the numbers: Froedtert filed 3,278 court actions and pursued $15.4 million from patients between 2018 and mid-2020, according to new research by Johns Hopkins University provided exclusively to Axios.

What they're saying: Spokesman Stephen Schooff said that Froedtert Health, which includes Froedtert Hospital "suspended filing small claims suits" in March of 2020 and that "this policy will remain indefinitely."

How it works: Hospital liens aren't liens against personal property. They can allow hospitals to claim a portion of any personal injury settlement — and can catch patients off guard.

  • “They just sent me this bill saying that they were going to put a lien on my name, and I just kind of panicked,” Maneisha Gaston told Wisconsin Watch about learning of a hospital lien on her name following treatment for injuries from a car accident.

But: They can be costly for patients insured by Medicare or Medicaid, but good for uninsured patients, Lance Trollop, a personal injury attorney Wausau, Wisconsin told Axios.

  • "In some ways, a hospital filing a lien and just waiting until they get that bill paid back can be a good thing in the sense that it's better than a hospital taking a collection action and impacting someone's credit," Trollop said.

Go deeper: Explore the full Axios-Johns Hopkins analysis

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