Apr 26, 2019

South Carolina hospitals collect unpaid bills via patients' tax refunds

Caitlin Owens, author of Vitals

Hospitals in South Carolina are allowed to siphon off millions of dollars a year from their poorest patients' tax refunds, to recoup those patients' medical debt, according to a a wild story by the Post and Courier.

How it works: The state Department of Revenue does the work, collecting a cut for themselves, resulting in health organizations taking at least $92.9 million via more than 172,000 seizures in 2017. A lobbying group is also involved, and also takes a chunk of money for itself, resulting in another fee tacked onto patients' debt.

The bottom line: Hospitals — including private ones — in South Carolina use the Department of Revenue as their debt collector, a practice replicated only in one other state.

  • Nearly a third of the state's residents under 65 have unpaid medical bills.
  • But unlike all but three other states, South Carolina prohibits hospitals from getting a court order to force employers to give them workers' wages as a way of settling medical debts.

Go deeper: Young people have the most medical debt

Go deeper

Updated 33 mins ago - Health

World coronavirus updates

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Axios Visuals

The number of deaths from the novel coronavirus surpassed 400,000 worldwide on Sunday morning, per Johns Hopkins.

By the numbers: Almost 6.9 million people have tested positive for COVID-19 globally and more than 3 million have recovered from the virus. The U.S. has reported the most cases in the world with over 1.9 million.

George Floyd updates

Protesters gather north of Lafayette Square near the White House during a demonstration against racism and police brutality, in Washington, D.C. on Saturday evening. Photo: Jose Luis Magana/AFP via Getty Images

Tens of thousands of demonstrators have been rallying in cities across the U.S. and around the world to protest the killing of George Floyd. Huge crowds assembled in Washington, D.C., Philadelphia and Chicago for full-day events on Saturday.

Why it matters: Twelve days of nationwide protest in the U.S. has built pressure for states to make changes on what kind of force law enforcement can use on civilians and prompted officials to review police conduct. A memorial service was held for Floyd in Raeford, North Carolina, near where he was born. Gov. Roy Cooper ordered all flags to fly at half-staff to honor him until sunset.

Updated 3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 3 a.m. ET: 6,898,613 — Total deaths: 399,832 — Total recoveries — 3,087,714Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 3 a.m. ET: 1,920,061 — Total deaths: 109,802 — Total recoveries: 500,849 — Total tested: 19,778,873Map.
  3. Public health: Why the pandemic is hitting minorities harder — Coronavirus curve rises in FloridaHow racism threatens the response to the pandemic Some people are drinking and inhaling cleaning products in attempt to fight the virus.
  4. Tech: The pandemic is accelerating next-generation disease diagnostics — Robotics looks to copy software-as-a-service model.
  5. Business: Budgets busted by coronavirus make it harder for cities to address inequality Sports, film production in California to resume June 12 after 3-month hiatus.
  6. Education: Students and teachers flunked remote learning.