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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The University of Virginia Health System said this week it will cancel decades of court judgments and liens over unpaid medical bills from low-income patients.

The big picture: The decision would likely benefit tens of thousands of families and would make UVA Health's collection policy way more lenient than those of many other hospital systems, Kaiser Health News reports.

Details: The cancellation will apply to patients who are at or below 400% of the federal poverty level. This includes a patient who makes less than $51,520 or someone in a family of four who makes $106,000 or less.

  • The health system will also stop blocking enrollment for university students with outstanding balances.
  • UVA Health also said it is in the process of establishing an ombudsperson’s office to help patients determine manageable payment options and to impartially assess an individual’s medical costs. 

Background: UVA Health said last year it would no longer sue future patients over medical bills. Reforms came after KHN published an investigation in 2019 that found UVA Health had sued patients 36,000 times over a period of six years for more than $100 million.

Go deeper

Governor asks legislature to reconsider ban on school mask mandates

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson speaks during a community town hall to promote COVID-19 vaccinations at Arkansas State University-Mountain Home on July 16, 2021. Photo: Liz Sanders/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Gov. Asa Hutchinson reinstated Arkansas' public health emergency Thursday, and announced he is calling a special session of the legislature to amend the law banning mask mandates to allow more flexibility for schools.

What's happening: COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are out of control in the state. And Act 1002 prohibits school districts from requiring masks when classes start again in a few weeks.

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
Jul 29, 2021 - Economy & Business

The mental health deal boom

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The positive social media response to Simone Biles withdrawing from Olympic competition highlights how the artificial line between health care and mental health care is finally beginning to dissolve. And startup investors have taken notice.

By the numbers: Venture capital investments in mental health startups rose 72.6% between Q1 2020 and Q1 2021, per CB Insights.

Jul 29, 2021 - Health

What to know about the health care industry's Q2 earnings

View of Pfizer World Headquarters on March 23, 2021 in New York. Photo: john Smith/VIEWpress

UnitedHealth Group, HCA Healthcare and Pfizer have been the most notable health care companies to post Q2 earnings so far, but this week has been chock-full of others.

🏥 Hospitals: The second quarter for Universal Health Services was so profitable that it returned $189 million in federal coronavirus bailout funds. But executives cautioned higher COVID cases may lead to labor shortages.